Scotland's Play Strategy: Playing with quality and equality: a review of inclusive play in Scotland

A review of inclusive play in Scotland.

Appendix 1

Literature Review Executive Summary

Inclusive play in Scotland: context, concepts and current research (Scottish Government, 2015)

As part of the Scottish Government's Action Plan to achieve its vision of Scotland as 'a nation which values play as a life-enhancing daily experience for all your children and young people', Action 9.6 outlines intentions to review inclusive play in Scotland. This literature review is intended as the first stage in achieving this action; the idea is that it will be used to inform the design of primary research into inclusive play in Scotland by setting out the context, reviewing the theory and key terms as well as identifying the research that has already been conducted.

During the first main chapter, the literature on the definitional issues surrounding the concepts of play and inclusive play is reviewed. Here, It was found that play, because of its complex and varied nature, is commonly defined in reference to play as a process: it is an activity that is freely chosen, intrinsically motivated and distinguished by means and not ends. Defining play in such a way makes conducting any sort of research into the topic troublesome, as it means that assessing activities as play or non-play is difficult.

It was also shown that inclusive play is a rather difficult concept to define, and has been interpreted differently by different people in different contexts. Much of the research has a focus upon inclusive play within a service setting, and what inclusive play means to service providers. Inclusive play out-with this setting and the views of children and young people on the matter are largely missing in the literature.

A review of a number of play projects in England shows the numerous ways in which the concept of 'inclusive play' can be interpreted by service providers. While there were a number of interlocking concepts, there were also a number of disparities resulting in different types of services being described as 'inclusive'. A similar picture was found in the definitions of inclusive play proffered by authors in the literature more generally.

In order to move forward with primary research in this field, a succinct definition of inclusive play needs to be decided upon. This definition should draw upon the body of research discussed in this paper, and directly address possible misinterpretations of that definition by taking a stance on the commonly conflicting notions of inclusive play referred to in this report.

During the second main chapter, the empirical research into inclusive play for a number of groups of children identified by the UN as requiring 'special attention in order to realise their rights under article 31' is reviewed, concentrating upon girls, children within in poverty, children with disabilities, children in institutions and children from minority communities. The chapter aimed to identify the possible barriers to inclusion faced by these groups and to review the key research and data into the inclusivity of play in the Scottish context. Throughout, it is highlighted that:

  • There has been much research looking at the issue of gender and play on a UK-wide level. In a number of reports, concern is raised about the restrictions placed on the play of girls in comparison to boys and the segregated and gendered nature of play in the service setting. Despite such a body of research on a UK level, no Scotland specific research was identified.
  • Children living in disadvantage in Scotland face significant barriers to play when compared to those from less disadvantaged backgrounds. Such barriers include access to quality public parks and play facilities, access to fields, open spaces and the natural environment as well as access to play in the home.
  • Disabled children and young people face barriers to play and inclusive play because of a lack of venues that are close to home; lack of skilled staff; lack of transport options; cost issues; lack of accessibility; and because of various attitudinal issues, whether the fears of parents or a lack of acceptance by peer groups. Moreover, the complexity of aspirations for inclusive play is frequently noted in the research available: although it is argued that play should be open to all, a lot of parents and children still stress the importance of specialist provision.
  • No empirical research into the state of play and/or inclusive play for children in hospitals, detention centres, remand homes or refugee centres was identified; however, relevant literature on the topic of children in public care in Scotland was. This literature raises concerns about a culture of risk aversion which is threatening this group of children and young people's ability to play outdoors.
  • Research into play, inclusive play and minority communities tended to be either conducted in England or on a UK-wide basis. This body of research expresses concerns about the barriers faced by young Asian women in accessing play, the segregated nature of play between differing communities and access to play for children of gypsy and traveller communities. While there was some research into the play of gypsy and traveller communities in Scotland - stressing the many barriers that this group of children face in accessing quality play opportunities - on the whole the issue of play and minority communities is an extremely under researched area.


Email: Deborah Gallagher

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