New research shows playing out gets children active

July 28th, 2017 by

Press release

New research published by Play England shows that playing out increases children’s physical activity. At a time of continuing concerns about childhood obesity, the research shows how playing out helps children meet daily targets of physical activity.

The reports evaluate the three-year Street Play project, funded by the Department of Health, and delivered by Play England with partners Playing Out, London Play and the University of Bristol. The highly successful Street Play project has supported parents and communities to hold regular road closures enabling children to play out in 33 geographically diverse areas, with a sustainable network of over 5,000 volunteers creating over 60,000 additional play opportunities.

The evaluation report ‘Why temporary street closures for play make sense for public health’, was written by Professor Angie Page and colleagues at the University of Bristol. Children wore accelerometers and GPS which showed that physical activity gained during temporary street closures made a meaningful contribution to daily physical activity for both boys and girls.  Researchers also found that outdoor, active play was more likely to replace sedentary and screen-based activities, than physical activities that normally occur after school.  Street Play initiatives can therefore help children to meet the daily target of 60 minutes moderate to vigorous physical activity set out in the government’s obesity strategy.

Since the funded project’s conclusion in March 2016, over 500 streets in 45 different local authority areas are involved in active street play.

The second report ‘Street play initiatives in disadvantaged areas: experiences and emerging issues’ is written by researcher and author Tim Gill in response to concerns about the decline in children’s opportunities for outdoor play. Based on interviews with people involved in schemes across five local authorities,  this report highlights a range of factors that influence the likelihood of success of street play initiatives in disadvantaged areas, such as the need to streamline local authority application procedures and remove cost barriers, as well as noting the importance of local sources of practical support working alongside local authorities. It recommends adapting the street play model for housing estates as well as supporting where children spontaneously play already in neighbourhood streets.

Nicola Butler, Chair of Trustees, Play England, ‘Children’s time spent outside is falling, particularly amongst girls.  Yet the evidence is clear. When children play out they are three times more likely to be physically active. Giving children access to free outdoor play opportunities is the best way of tackling problems like obesity. Not only is active play physically good for children and young people, it helps their mental health too. We need more initiatives like street play at the heart of the government’s health and wellbeing agenda.’

Alice Ferguson, Co-founder and Managing Director, Playing Out ‘We are delighted to have hard evidence that shows what we already knew – street play is great for children and for communities. Government and local authorities should now be supporting this in any way they can.’

Professor Angie Page, University of Bristol ‘We know that time spent outdoors is related to greater daily physical activity and reduced risk of obesity. However, few interventions are effective at increasing physical activity in the local environment. This resident-led intervention shows the potential for meaningful increases in physical activity as well as social benefits to both children and the communities in which they live. It is relatively low cost, scaleable and potentially sustainable – this is why it makes sense for public health.’

Tim Gill, author and researcher, “My study shows that play streets are not just for up-and-coming urban areas and leafy suburbs: they can succeed in poorer areas too. However, local authorities must make the bureaucracy as simple as possible, and give practical help to residents, if they are to reach the most disadvantaged neighbourhoods.”

Paul Hocker, Director, London Play

“Street play is a no-brainer when it comes to promoting active childhoods. It deftly dodges two of the main barriers that prevent unsporty children from being active. Firstly, play is not prescriptive, whereas organised sport demands particular skills and a grasp of rules to participate. Secondly, it is the ultimate in accessibility because it takes place right on your doorstep. Fun outside your front door. Who wouldn’t want to go out and join in with that?”

For media enquiries and interviews please contact Sophie Bolt 07802 722412.




Notes to editors:

1. Health and wellbeing outcomes:
According to Public Health England, in 2014/15 a third of 10- to 11-year olds and over a fifth of four to five-year olds were overweight or obese. The government’s obesity strategy recommends that ‘[e]very primary school child should get at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity a day.’

A Children and Young People’s Mental Health Coalition survey has found that young people’s mental health problems have become more severe over the last two years.

The Mental Health Foundation recommends that having the time and freedom to play, indoors and outdoors, can help keep children and young people mentally well

2.Decline in children playing outside

There has been a significant decline in time spent outside for children and adolescent boys and girls over a five-year period, with the steepest rate of decline in girls whose average time spent outdoors declined by 31%.

 3. Street Play partners

Play England is the national charity for children’s play, providing guidance for thousands of play providers: adventure playgrounds, after-school clubs, parks departments, parents, volunteers and schools.  Play England’s Playday campaign was evaluated by the Institute for Volunteering and NCVO which found Playday reached over 900,000 adults and children, giving 191 million opportunities to view the campaign through national and local media coverage.

Playing OutPlaying Out is a non-profit organisation promoting children’s right to play out safely on the streets and estates where they live. They provide free advice to anyone wanting to organise regular play street sessions in their own neighbourhoods, as well as helping councils to put the right policies and support in place. Over the next few years, they aim to grow the national grassroots movement of parents and others bringing about change for children across the UK. Playing Out has also produced a survey of street play. You can download it here:

The Centre for Exercise, Nutrition and Health Sciences, University of Bristol

The Centre for Exercise, Nutrition and Health Sciences at the University of Bristol is the leading institution in the UK for research on physical activity and public heath.

London PlayLondon Play is a small but influential charity that strives to get more children in London playing out more often. We promote children’s right to play, campaign for more and improved out-of-school play services for London’s 1.8m children and young people, and support play providers in the capital. We also directly provide more play opportunities for children by supporting groups to develop play streets, building nature play areas and running events.

Other local partners include Hackney Play Association, Haringey Play Association, House of Objects, Leeds Play Network and Nottingham Playworks.

4. Social media:

National websites:



Hashtags: #Playday #StreetPlay #ActivePlay

Partner twitter handles:






5. Images

Images to download are available here.

(Please credit all images to Play England)

Playwork qualifications – July UPDATE

May 30th, 2017 by

Following calls by Play England for playworkers to lobby qualification awarding bodies to extend registration of Playwork Diplomas CACHE and City & Guilds have reviewed their stance and extended the registration for some of the qualifications for another year.

Thank you to all those play workers and play organisations who took the time to write expressing their concern about the deletion of the playwork qualifications.

This is a small but significant victory!

However, it does not resolve the problem of disappearing qualifications in the long term.  Awarding bodies need a critical number of registrations for each qualification to ensure it is financially viable.  If those registration fees are not forthcoming, the qualifications will be deleted, whether there is verbal support or not.

So, if you are wondering whether to register yourself, or your staff, on a playwork qualification, now is the time to act, while we still have qualifications on which to register!

Below is a list of the qualifications that are available in England, by awarding body, and their last registration dates, as at 26 May 2017.


City and Guilds

Qualification Level and Title Last date for registration
Level 2 Award in Playwork 31 July 2018
Level 2 Certificate in Playwork 31 July 2018
Level 2 Diploma in Playwork 31 July 2018
Level 3 Award in Playwork No longer available
Level 3 Certificate in Playwork No longer available
Level 3 Diploma in Playwork 31 July 2018
Level 4 Award in Playwork 30 Nov 2017
Level 4 Certificate in Playwork No longer available
Level 5 Diploma in Playwork 31 July 2018


Qualification Level and Title Last date for registration
Level 2 Award in Playwork No longer available
Level 2 Certificate in Playwork No longer available
Level 2 Diploma in Playwork 31 Aug 2019
Level 3 Award in Playwork No longer available
Level 3 Certificate in Playwork 31 Aug 2019
Level 3 Diploma in Playwork
31 Aug 2019
Level 4 Award in Playwork No longer available
Level 4 Certificate in Playwork No longer available
Level 5 Diploma in Playwork 31 Aug 2019


In addition, City and Guilds offer a Level 2 Apprenticeship in Playwork and, for those who wish to progress their education in playwork, Leeds Beckett University offers a BA (Hons) in Childhood Development and Playwork and The University of Gloucestershire offer an MA in Professional Studies in Children’s Play

Apprenticeship Trailblazers

There is currently a government initiative to develop new apprenticeships in a range of sectors. According to the government’s website ‘an apprenticeship is a job with training. It enables someone to develop and demonstrate the knowledge, skills and behaviours they need to perform effectively in a particular occupation. The occupation is defined in the apprenticeship standard. Apprentices have a contract of employment, and are employees of the company which take them on. They must be paid at least the minimum wage for the duration of their apprenticeship.  Both apprentice and employer must sign an apprenticeship agreement. This identifies the skill, trade or occupation for which the apprentice is being trained, and confirms the standard that the apprentice is following. Apprenticeships must last a minimum of 12 months, with 20% structured off-the-job training which must be directly relevant to the apprenticeship, taking place before the end-point assessment, to develop competence in an occupation.’

Following an unsuccessful attempt to gain approval for a playwork apprenticeship, the employer group is seeking to expand its membership to refine and resubmit a proposal.  These employer groups are being named trailblazers and must represent the sector for which they aim to develop apprenticeship standards.

If you are interested in contributing to this development, email Amy Nicholls at CACHE on  as she is co-ordinating this development.


Remembering Stuart Lester

May 22nd, 2017 by

Play England’s staff and trustees are deeply saddened by the loss of our friend and colleague Dr Stuart Lester.

Stuart was a huge inspiration and support to all of us in the play sector in England and internationally, delivering many workshops, talks and lectures.  Play England was honoured to publish his work co-authored with Wendy Russell on Play for a Change: Play, Policy and Practice.  This remains the go to source for research and literature for making the case for play in England.

Stuart was a key contributor to development of Quality in Play, the quality assurance system for play provision in England.  It is based on the Manchester Circles model, developed by Stuart and Wendy, putting the playing child at the centre, a principle that remains fundamental to quality play provision.  Stuart supported us with publication of the latest edition of Quality in Play, quietly but persuasively promoting the importance of a play-centred approach to quality assurance with local commissioners and play providers.

Supporting local play providers to use playwork artefacts to evidence the value and quality of their provision was also at the heart of Stuart’s work on Thinking About Playwork, a continuous professional development programme.  Stuart’s unique delivery of this programme combined in-depth exploration of the meaning of play and playwork with such provocations as goblins, eggs, wiggly lines and a mischievous sense of humour.  In a playful way, he encouraged us to test the boundaries and limitations of our own thinking and always to explore the possibilities – what if?

Stuart’s work with Wendy on the Welsh Government’s Play Sufficiency Duty, Leopard Skin Wellies, a Top Hat and a Vacuum Cleaner Hose, published by Play Wales is a beacon to everyone involved in promoting the child’s right to play.

Here at Play England we will miss the sense of magic and enjoyment that Stuart brought to play and playwork – his ability to take apart everything that we thought we knew about play and to enable us to put it back together again in new and thought-provoking combinations.  Our thoughts are with Stuart’s family and friends at this time.

Statement on withdrawal of playwork qualifications

January 26th, 2017 by

Play England has learned that the CACHE  Level 2 Award and Certificate in Playwork and the Level 3 Award in Playwork have been closed to new registrations, as have the CACHE level 4 Award and Certificate in Playwork.  Registration for a City and Guilds level 2 Diploma in Playwork was closed on 31st December 2016, and the final date for registering for a level 3 and level 5 Diploma in Playwork with City and Guilds is 30 November 2017.

The Awards and, eventually, the Certificates, are going because they were recognised as ‘stepping stone’ qualifications to the full Diploma at level 2 or level 3. That ‘stepping stone’ arrangement was part of the Qualifications and Credit Framework (QCF), which enabled students to study a part of a full qualification (the modules contained in the Award or Certificate) and receive credit for this which they could either keep or use towards the achievement of a full, Diploma, qualification. The last government abandoned the Qualifications and Credit Framework, replacing it with the Regulated Qualifications Framework (RQF) which does not recognise bite-sized learning in the same way.

Because of this, when qualifications come to the end of their shelf life, they are being ‘converted’ into RQF qualifications without those embedded, shorter ‘stepping stone’ qualifications.  The level 2 and level 3 Diplomas have a slightly longer shelf life than their constituent parts and are more likely to be kept on in the short term, as they are ‘full’ qualifications and can potentially be converted to the RQF.

Because awarding organisations need to be able to make a business case for the development of new qualifications, and the numbers registering for playwork qualifications have been declining for some time, it is likely that awarding organisations will not want to cover the cost of developing new qualifications as their return will not justify the expenditure.   However, CACHE is currently developing a playwork apprenticeship with employers.

Is it intended to replace the current qualifications? Will it be flexible enough to meet the needs of the playwork sector? How would you like to see playwork qualifications develop in the next few years?

Play England hosted a round table discussion at the National Playwork Conference to address these issues. Click here for the outcomes and actions called from this meeting.



Play best way for children to get active

November 21st, 2016 by
New Ark Adventure Playground


By Nicola Butler, Chair of Trustees 

Play is vital for children’s health and wellbeing. It is particularly important for disadvantaged and disabled children, who often face greater barriers to access appropriate and good quality play opportunities.

Play England is delighted to be part of #GetOutGetActive, an exciting new programme that supports disabled and non-disabled people to enjoy being active together. Funded by Spirit of 2012, the project is about getting people moving more through fun and inclusive activities.

Too many children are leading inactive lives. Many are growing up in over-crowded housing without access to quality play and sports opportunities outside school. An alarming number of children fail to meet guidance from the Chief Medical Officer.

According to Public Health England, in 2014/15 a third of 10- to 11-year olds and over a fifth of four to five-year olds were overweight or obese.

Evaluation of Play England’s Street Play project identified increases in children’s moderate to vigorous physical activity when they played out. Accelerometers and GPS were used to track children whilst playing. It identified increases in children’s moderate to vigorous physical activity.

The data collected and analysed showed that outdoor, active play was more likely to replace sedentary and screen-based activities, than physical activities. Increased community cohesion was also identified through an in depth study of parents views.

Play England, with national partners Playing Out, London Play and the University of Bristol, developed the highly successful Street Play project, funded by the Department of Health. The Street Play project supports parents to hold regular road closures for play, with a sustainable network of over 5,000 volunteers creating over 60,000 additional play opportunities.

The evaluation of Play England’s Street Play project found that the hours between 3:30pm and 6pm on weekdays are the ‘critical window’ for children’s physical activity and it is during this time when differences in weekday physical activity between low and high active children and non-obese and obese children are greatest. Currently only 13% of 10- and 11-year old children are outdoors and active during this time.

Play England has lots of resources to help parents and local residents reactivate a culture of children playing out in the streets near where they live and embed this in local policy.
Click here to find out more and download briefings.

At the Child in the City conference this month, I promoted the crucial role of Street Play in child-friendly cities at a workshop with Tim Gill, author of the acclaimed ‘No Fear: Growing up in a risk averse society’.

Play England is also developing Adventure into Sport, a pilot project which will use play provision as a springboard into sport and active lifestyles for children and their parents.
To find out more about #GetOutGetActive click here.

To find out more about the latest Play England news and activities download our quarterly newsletter Playtoday.

Four Nations Play Symposium 2016

October 17th, 2016 by


On 10 March 2016, the Office of the First and deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland hosted the fifth biennial Four Nations Play Symposium with the support of PlayBoard NI at Cultra Manor, Belfast in Northern Ireland.

The aim of the Four Nations Play Symposium is to provide an opportunity for play professionals, experts and decision makers to discuss and debate the development and implementation of play policies, strategies and opportunities that will benefit children in each of the four nations.

Here is the report from that Symposium.

Nicola Butler, Chair of Play England and Robin Sutcliffe, Children’s Play Policy Forum Chairman contributed on behalf of England.

You can read their reports on page 13 and 14.

Play holds key to inclusion

September 26th, 2016 by

Play is the best way to offer inclusion, says Karen Kewell, co-founder of #ToyLikeMe, an organisation that was set up to call the global toy industry to  account on its failure to represent the 150 million disabled children in its toys.  This year,  Lego launched its first ever wheelchair-using figure, which has been directly credited to #ToyLikeMe campaign. As Part of our diversity in Play campaign, we are delighted to introduce Karen as our latest guest blogger.

In the Beginning

#ToyLikeMe® was established in April 2015 after journalist and creative consultant Rebecca Atkinson and I noticed the lack of disability representation in toys. We had always been interested in the way these industries represent disabled people, but this was the first time they had noticed the lack of representation in the toy industry.

I was a former Ragdoll Productions Researcher and play consultant, and orginally launched #ToyLikeMe on Facebook and Twitter to call on the global toy industry to start representing the 150 million disabled children worldwide.

I now live in York and have a son, Fred with a visual impairment. Rebecca, who is partially deaf and partially sighted herself, wrote for the Guardian about the beginnings of #ToyLikeMe and the impetus behind it. You can read the full article here .

Customising toys

They say a picture speaks a thousand words and with 150 million children worldwide with a disability we wanted to speak to everyone!

We began making-over toys to give them disabilities and asked other parents to do the same. The results soon went viral and our story was shared on news outlets around the world.

‘…when a child plays with a toy that is differently-abled, they will show more compassion, understanding and acceptance when they meet a child with a disability.’

The customised toys not only show and tell, they also inspire creative families to do their own too. We’ve had so many creative ideas shared via #ToyLikeMe it has created a small industry of its own.


Harnessing 3D technology

We spotted a company in the UK who make bespoke dolls using 3D printing. We contacted them and asked if they would produce hearing aids and a white cane for their dolls. To our delight they agreed and within two weeks they produced the world’s first 3D printed dolls with disabilities in response to #ToyLikeMe. We were so happy we fell off our toy box and so did a lot of other kids and big kids. The story also made the global press.

Focusing on the big toy manufacturers!

Our next tactic was to focus on one toy manufacturer: we decided on PlayMobil.

We gave some Playmobil figures waggy-tailed guide dogs and whizzy wheelchairs and started a petition asking Playmobil to produce the figures for real. Fifty thousand people signed in a week and the lovely folk at Playmobil said yes! With creative consultation from Rebecca, they are currently developing products inspired by #ToyLikeMe for release in 2016/17. Whoopeee!

Next up, we started a petition calling on Lego which has been signed by over 20,000 people. Sadly, Lego didn’t respond to us directly. However, in January this year, Lego unveiled their first ever wheelchair-using mini-figure at the Nuremberg Toy Fair. The UK press attributed #ToyLikeMe’s influence to this product and the story was carried worldwide. We were very happy to see this product at long last.  Only time can tell, but where the big toy companies go, many tend to follow! The wheelchair has been very well received and we hope it is the start of incidental representation across all their sets.

In the spring we Crowd-funded for development costs for a website as we needed a place online so people can connect with the products available. This has just been launched! Now, all our hours of searching for the best representative toys is there in all its playful glory. Who knows, maybe we will shame, I mean inspire, other big toy companies to think about representing all children’s abilities.

The play sector holds the key to championing differently-abled children

The play sector holds the key to championing the ideas and values that underpin #ToyLikeMe. If children play with and see images of children who are differently abled, it becomes the norm. Therefore inclusion becomes the norm. We are currently working with a University to provide academic research for this, to show that when a child plays with a toy that is differently-abled, they will show more compassion, understanding and acceptance when they meet a child with a disability. Importantly they won’t feel just pity.

Here are three practical things that local play organisations can do to help be more welcoming to diff:abled children, particularly children with visual impairments:

  1. Hide and seek – Children with disabilities are often invisible to local services so I would recommend you contact your local Sensory team and see if there are any children who would like to attend your play centre. I can guarantee there will be. Their parents might need a bit of persuading. You can help by asking directly what small adaptations could be made to welcome children with disabilities. For sight loss it is wonderful what a bit of paint and washi tape can do.
  2. Awareness – Grab a pair of Sim Specks (glasses that simulate blindness and visual impairments, like these), a blind fold and take a walk in their shoes. Take a slice of common sense and walk around your setting and make minor adaptations. Arrange a training day, invite me or someone like me or Positive Eye to come and share with you some adapted games and crafts you can do together. Promise you will have fun and learn loads!
  3. Makeover some toys and send them to #ToyLikeMe

To find out more about #ToyLikeMe, please visit their Facebook page and their website here.

If you have questions for Karen, or would like to share your own experiences and ideas, please just use our comments section below.


Play England Annual General Meeting

September 15th, 2014 by

On 11 February, we hold our Annual General Meeting. All members of Play England can attend.  This is where we will assess our work and determine the campaigning priorities for the year ahead. Building our membership base will be a key part of our work in the coming year. (more…)