Children’s Right to Play: Position Statement by the British Psychological Society

June 19th, 2019 by

Play England warmly welcomes the Children’s right to play Position Statement published by the British Psychological Society.

The British Psychological Society’s Division of Educational and Child Psychology states that:

  • Child-led play is a critical enabler of children’s holistic development and wellbeing.
  • Educational psychologists have a key role in championing opportunities for child-led play for all children both in and outside school, for example through:
    • Challenging practice that restricts or reduces access to play.
    • Advocating for access to play within casework.
    • Supporting whole-school initiatives to promote play.
  • Withdrawing break time opportunities for play in school should never be used as a punishment (e.g. for misbehaviour or completing unfinished work), nor the threat of withdrawal be used to control children’s behaviour.
  • All children and young people should have access to free, high quality, local opportunities for play.
    • This is particularly important for children who may currently experience exclusion from play e.g. disabled children, children living in poverty or children from minority communities.

Full statement is available at:

Working together for children and play

June 1st, 2019 by
Dr Sudeshna Chatterjee CEO, Action for Children’s Environments (ACE),
Dr Wendy Russell, University of Gloucestershire and Cynthia Gentry (IPA Board)

Play England trustees Laura Walsh, Libby Truscott and Nicola Butler were delighted to join delegates at the International Play Association England’s Halfway to Jaipur conference in London on 10 and 11 May 2019. Here’s a selection of the discussions and debates.

Trial and error without fear of failure

Opening the conference, author and poet Michael Rosen highlighted the issue of children being “constrained and contained” by an “exam crazy” school system. He talked about the importance of daydreaming and being able to investigate though trial and error without fear of failure.

Finding a balance – enough time for free play and organised activities

Professor Sarah Holloway of Loughborough University presented research indicating that very small amounts of money were stopping working class children from accessing opportunities offered by after school clubs and activities. Whilst they were often still able to play in the street, they were not free to leave that and were “excluded from other play opportunities by money”.

Inspired by local, national and international play partners

Play England trustees Libby Truscott and Laura Walsh spoke about influencing local and national policies, play in hospital environments and also highlighted the amazing work being done locally to support play – adventure playgrounds, after school clubs, hospital play, play in parks and public spaces, child-friendly cities initiatives – in England despite austerity.

We were pleased to be teamed with Froukje Hajer from the Netherlands

A warm welcome for everybody

Hackney Play Association’s Kay O’Brien led a practical session on putting the child’s right to play into practice and the importance of everyone feeling welcome when they arrive at play projects. Her work focussed on inclusion of disabled children and the wider community at Pearson Street Adventure Playground in Hackney.

Rights, accountability and implementation

Tam Baillie of IPA World made the case that policy is not everything. There are problems with failures of implementation even when the policies are there. He called for children to be better involved in the planning system and for a focus on what we can practically do to implement the right to play.

Meynell argued that some organisations use the child’s right to play in a flawed way. Whilst Rob Wheway advocated for a greater focus on traffic reduction.

Learning from indigenous ways of knowing

Day two began with Dr Wendy Russell highlighting the situated nature of knowledge and the dominance of European ways of knowing. Continued colonial domination included use of judgemental language that suggested a value hierarchy. In a beautiful tribute to the late Dr Stuart Lester, from the University of Gloucestershire Playwork department, who died 2 years ago, Wendy suggested an approach based on humility and paying attention to other ways of knowing.

Play builds children: looking forward to Play Day 2019

May 14th, 2019 by

Play England is delighted to be working in partnership on Play Day, Wednesday 7 August 2019, with PlayBoard Northern Ireland, Play Scotland and Play Wales.

This year’s theme is: Play Builds Children.

The Playday 2019 theme aims to highlight the many ways in which play is beneficial to children and young people.

* Play Builds Friendships – playing allows children to interact with others, develop relationships, deal with conflict, and learn respect and tolerance.

* Play Builds Resilience – playing boosts children’s confidence, creativity, problem-solving skills and perseverance, enabling them to cope with stress and challenges throughout life.

* Play Builds Health and Well-being – being active through play helps children physically and emotionally, contributing to their health and happiness.

* Play Builds Communities – playing allows children to learn about the world around them, make connections, and develop a sense of identity and belonging.

Get involved and find out more at

More information about the theme, Play Builds Children at

Advocating for Play in the London Plan

May 7th, 2019 by
Working Together: Play England Chair Nicola Butler and Playwork Foundation trustee Adrian Voce with Nicky Gavron AM

Play England Chair of Trustees Nicola Butler was amongst those giving evidence at Examinations in Public on the London Plan on Friday 3 May, along with London Assembly Member and Deputy Chair of London’s Planning Committee Nicky Gavron, Marion Briggs, Joanna Chambers, Tim Gill and Adrian Voce.

Play England called for a Play Sufficiency requirement for London Boroughs to assess and secure sufficient play opportunities for children and young people in their area, based on the successful model in Wales.

Play England also asked for the Plan to reflect the need for children to be able to experience risk and challenge in their play, based on the Play Safety Forum guidance, Managing Risk in Play Provision and the Health & Safety Executive Statement on Children’s Play and Leisure: Promoting a Balanced Approach.

Play England welcomes the inclusion of Policy S4 on Play and informal recreation in the London Plan.

Play England also strongly supported the proposals put forward by Nicky Gavron AM that London must build the needs of children into its planning policies. Nicky called for measures to strengthen provision for play including that London Boroughs should protect non-designated and informal play space and that residential developments should incorporate at least 10 square metres per child of age appropriate play and informal recreation space that:

a)  provides a stimulating environment and opportunities for free play and ball games

b)  can be accessed safely from the street and home by children and young people independently

c)  forms an integral part of the development with access for children and young people from all tenures

d)  incorporates trees and/or other forms of greenery

e)  is well located with good informal over-sight in accordance with Policy G4

f)   is provided on site unless exceptional circumstances can be demonstrated.

The London Plan is the overall strategic plan for London, setting out the economic, environmental, transport and social framework for the development of London, including the framework for development and use of land and for decision making on planning and new developments.

Mark Gladwin’s work recognised at National Playwork Awards

March 6th, 2019 by
Mark Gladwin, one of the founding trustees of Play England

Mark Gladwin, who died last year, has been awarded the Paul Bonel Memorial Award at the National Playwork Conference, in recognition of his unique contribution to the play and playwork sector.

Mark worked and volunteered in play development and support for over 30 years, supporting play in York, Bradford, Yorkshire Play, PLAYLINK and Play England.

Mark was one of the founder members of Play England.  He believed that Play in England needed its own independent national body, with the purpose of campaigning and advocating for play.  He was instrumental in writing the memorandum and articles for the new charity, helping to shape the vision, values and ethos of Play England. 

He was passionate about campaigning for children’s rights to play, the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and UN General Comment 17.  And he put his principles into practice locally, regionally and nationally.

Mark was always a voice of reason and calm in a crisis.  He combined being very strategic and knowledgeable about play and playwork with having a real insight and empathy with what others might be thinking.  That knowledge and insight helped steer his colleagues through many crises and to avoid pitfalls on numerous occasions.

Like Paul Bonel, he was very generous with his time and hugely supportive of colleagues who were new to the playwork field, taking time to discuss with them and to help them to learn.

He has been a role model to all of us in play and playwork – gentle and kind – and perhaps the only person in the field who has never fallen out with anyone and was always able to work effectively with everybody.

Mark was always hugely supportive and encouraging to everyone he worked with.  He was always thoughtful and responsive, giving good advice, very strategic and always able to see the bigger picture and focus on the key aim of campaigning and advocacy for play.

Play builds children

February 4th, 2019 by

Play Builds Children: A Statement from the Children’s Play Policy Forum

The Children’s Play Policy Forum
A collective voice for children’s play

Press Statement 4th February 2019 For Immediate Release

A crisis in childhood is happening every day, all around us.

The Children’s Play Policy Forum has today issued a policy statement identifying a crisis in childhood and calling for more children’s play opportunities. The cancellation of public liability insurance for children’s playgrounds comes at a time when new research is encouraging less screen time and more outdoor play.

The Children’s Play Policy Forum is made up of play specialists from across the UK who are warning that modern life is squeezing play – especially outdoor play – to the margins of children’s lives limiting the natural growth and development that occurs when children play. The statement entitled “Play Builds Children” goes on to say that mental health of a generation is at risk. Obesity in children is at epidemic levels and increases in life expectancy have stalled.

Chair of the Children’s Play Policy Forum Robin Sutcliffe said: “In all the 20 years that I have been involved with the Forum we have never before made a statement as to our position on children’s play. The need for such a statement has never been so urgent, the importance of play never so great, nor the rewards so significant. My hope is that, in the light of interest in the current issues of Adventure Playgrounds, the significance of this statement to the wellbeing and potential for our children will be realised and supported. It is vital to recognise that Play Builds Children”

The Children’s Play Policy Forum warns that the cost to society of allowing these trends to continue is significant including the human cost of physical and mental ill-health, an increased demand on public services, and damage to the economy through lost productivity and skills gaps.

The recent announcements from Matt Hancock MP detailing the NHS preventative agenda is to be welcomed, but the CPPF insist that lack of play leaves children mentally and physically unprepared to cope with life. On the other hand, there are huge benefits to be gained when sufficient time and space is available for children to play every day. These benefits contribute to the prevention of the prime issues of health, mental health, obesity and school exclusion – key issues in need of urgent resolution. Play builds happy, healthy children.

The CPPF policy statement calls on Government, the devolved administrations and local authorities to work together and make sure that children and society are not fundamentally damaged by the lack of play in children’s everyday lives.

Notes to Editors:

The Children’s Play Policy Forum operates as the collective voice for children’s play in the UK. The forum is made up of the specialist children’s play agencies from the UK’s Home Nations

A policy statement “Play Builds Children” was been jointly prepared and published in February 2019, it is available on the CPPF website along with a separate evidence document detailing sources and statistics.

More information and comment:

Play England      Nicola Butler t:07802 722412

Play Scotland     Marguerite Hunter-Blair t: 07795 954856

Play Wales         Mike Greenaway t 029 2048 6050

Play Board NI     Jacqueline O’loughlin  t:028 90803380

API                      Deborah Holt

Fields in Trust    Richard McKeever t: 02074272110

ZURICH INSURANCE: Do the ‘underwrite’ thing and don’t bar adventure playgrounds from your services

February 4th, 2019 by

Play England and London Play are calling on Zurich, which recently withdrew its cover from several adventure playgrounds, to revisit its decision, issuing a Joint Statement which highlights what could be lost should other insurers follow suit.

Lawrence Waterman OBE, chair of the British Safety Council said:

“Young people need to learn about taking and managing risks – and designed and managed adventure playgrounds enable this by offering children stimulating, challenging environments for exploring and developing their abilities.   Because this play provision manages the level of risk, so that children are not exposed to unacceptable risks of death or serious injury, they have proved their value in creating safe places for this crucial aspect of becoming adult.  The accident and claim history of such places, often open only when supervising adults are present, is very good and it would be a great pity if unevidenced risk-averse behaviour by insurers threatened the availability of exactly those places where risk management can be experienced and learned.”

David Ball, Professor of Risk Management, Middlesex University added:

“Any threat to adventure playgrounds needs to be taken very seriously. Adventure playgrounds provide essential developmental experiences for young people which are so absent from modern lifestyles.”

Our submission to Labour Party Consultation on Statutory Youth Services

November 28th, 2018 by

Today, Play England made its full submission to the Labour Party’s consultation on Building Statutory Youth Services.

Play England welcomes Labour’s consultation on ‘Building a statutory youth service’. We support the creation of a National Strategy for Youth Work and a Charter underpinned by law, to define sufficient levels as well as a sustainable funding model to support the delivery of a statutory youth service. We believe that making youth services statutory will be of vital benefit to the health and wellbeing of our young people, and to the future of our society.

We also see the consultation as an important opportunity to address the need to protect, defend and rebuild an integrated approach to delivering play to support all children in England.  In our submission, we outline play’s myriad benefits, the unique nature of play and playwork and hence the need for a statutory duty for play and play sufficiency, backed up with a separate national, mandated body and charter.

To download our submission in full, click here.


Play needs increased funding

March 5th, 2018 by

With the latest report by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showing girls spending more time involved in play activities than boys, Play England is highlighting how the chronic funding crisis on the play sector means girls in particular are missing out on play opportunities. The ONS report ‘Children’s engagement with the outdoors and sports activities, UK: 2014 to 2015’ shows that whilst boys spent longer on sports activities, girls spent more of their time in play activities – 127 minutes per day compared to boys at 96 minutes.
Yet government’s investment in play has been cut from £235 million prior to 2010 to zero in 2018. Between 2012 and 2017, Sport England received £1 billion from the government and National Lottery funding. Play England is calling for these levels of national funding to also be made available for play.

Here is a model letter to MPs. Please complete and send this to your local MP!

Your name & address (you must include this in order to receive a response from your local MP)

Your MP (find out who they are, and contact parliamentary e-mail here🙂

Dear XXX

I am writing to ask you to support an increase in national funding for play provision.

The benefits of play reach into every aspect of children’s lives. It is vital for their enjoyment of childhood as well as for social, emotional, intellectual and physical development. Independent research, as well as the Chief Medical Officer’s own recommendations, emphasizes the effectiveness of play in helping children’s health and wellbeing. The Mental Health Foundation recommends that regular play helps keep children mentally well.

Access to high quality, staffed play opportunities also benefits parents and families, providing important social support, crucial lifelines in deprived neighbourhoods and for parents in need.

 However, investment in play has collapsed: prior to 2010, government investment in play was  £235 million. Now, in 2018, it is zero. 

This is damaging the quality and availability of public play provision in local parks and open spaces. National government cuts to local authorities is also forcing staffed play providers, such as adventure playgrounds and after-school clubs, to cut services or close.

These cuts are limiting children’s access to free, local play spaces and taking a toll on children’s health and wellbeing. According to the government’s childhood obesity strategy, nearly a third of children aged two to 15 in England are overweight or obese. The problem is worse amongst children from the most deprived areas, with five-year olds twice as likely to be obese compared to their most well off counterparts. 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.

Investing in play benefits everyone and is vital for this country’s future. Between 2012 and 2017, the government and National Lottery invested £1 billion in Sport England. I believe that the same levels of funding need to be made available for play.

Please support Play England’s ‘Save our Play’ campaign which calls on the government to pledge matched funding between sport and play – to benefit all of our children and young people.

I look forward to hearing from you.


Yours sincerely,


Your name


You can also download the model letter here.

Shiremoor leads the way on quality in play

February 2nd, 2018 by

Shiremoor Adventure Playground is the latest play organisation to be accredited with Quality in Play (QiP), Play England’s quality assurance system for playwork practitioners.

Shiremoor, in Newcastle upon Tyne, is a former mining area with high levels of deprivation. The adventure playground opened in 2010 as part of the Play Pathfinder Programme on a previously unused seven hectare site of land. It is managed by North Tyneside Council who provide core funding for staff and running costs. The Shiremoor Adventure Playground Trust raise additional charitable and other funding for salaries and activities.

The Adventure Playground has successfully managed the transition from catering for a very local community, to being a destination playground in the spring and summer months, when between 300 to 500 people visit daily.   In autumn and winter it reverts back to a community playground for core local users. Because the playground is less busy, this is when the more adventurous play, like Parkour, takes place.

Play England talked to Shiremoor’s Manager and Senior Playworker, Keeks McGarry about the QiP experience.

Why was accreditation important to you?

“It’s important for a number of reasons. We strongly believe in the professional profile of playwork and welcome being scrutinised by a set of standards that have been endorsed by the sector. Having achieved QIP status it’s given the team credibility and confidence in what we do and how we do it. QIP is also important from the perspective of an Adventure Playground within a local authority model as our approach is not always understood by Health and Safety Inspectors, other professionals and organisations who may not be familiar with a playwork approach.”

Quality in Play is a management tool to support continuous self-assessment and improvement. The process brings together the staff and management team to organise the policies and procedures – ‘how we do things here’ – into a portfolio of evidence.


How did your team manage the process of working through the Play summary areas?

“For most of the areas we started with a bunch of our Annual Reports and policy documents as paper-based evidence of how we were meeting the criteria. So, for example, Area 1 looks at the importance of freely chosen play. Statements in our Annual Reports and in our Play Policy produced robust evidence of how we were meeting this area. Once we had paper-based evidence we discussed other formats such as videos or children’s statements that would provide an holistic picture of that summary area. We knew from the past accreditation process that our weakest area was around publicity and information dissemination so we made a concerted effort to address this when putting together all of our evidence this time round. The QIP process has also helped us to focus on what we are providing as professional playworkers and we’ve used it as evidence of quality in relation to several funding bids.”

At Shiremoor, children are actively involved in the running of the playground, making sure everyone signs in and showing new arrivals around the playground. Regulars also look out for younger children and new users on the structures. Shiremoor has developed a team of ‘Helping Hands’ and more recently ‘Junior Playworkers’ who encourage children to take responsibility for tasks and jobs – and they clearly take pride in and enjoy them. In return, they are allowed on the playground an hour early, which is seen as a great privilege.

“Children were involved in the Quality in Play process right from the beginning,” says Keeks. “Some of our older users had helped in pulling together a file of their own evidence for our first accreditation visit so they guided a younger group in collating a file this time around. This worked on two levels. On one level the children’s file began to fill up with all kinds of ‘evidence’, ranging from pieces of their own artwork, to photos of trips they had been on. We briefed a core group of children on talking about what was in their file so that they could present it on the day of assessment.

This got the children familiar with the process as well as focusing them on some of the summary areas where they could really have an input. By the time the day of inspection had arrived a lot of our children were really familiar with what was going to be assessed and were more than keen to help show the inspector around and talk about the evidence in their file.”

Another part of the Quality in Play process looks at how play providers can actively engage and work with the wider community – ‘the local community is the sea in which play provision swims or sinks.’ As children’s services are increasingly integrated, play providers need to make links with networks of professionals who work with children and young people in their area. This enables play and other services to signpost children and families to each other and build community awareness of what is available.

Working through the Quality in Play process, did it help you to demonstrate the positive impact of the playground on the wider community?

“QIP accreditation has given the Playground a sense of status that really helps when working with other organisations and professionals. To the uninitiated, Adventure Playgrounds are often misunderstood. It can be difficult to build relationships and partnerships in the wider community unless there is some understanding about our approach and our practice and how this can benefit the children we work with. QIP has helped us to develop good, mutually respected relationships in the local and wider community enabling us to work closer with local police, social workers, local schools, colleges and universities, youth offending teams, foster carers and local businesses. This has given us the opportunity to ‘educate’ some of these people and organisations in relation to the importance of play in the lives of children.”

These mutually respected relationships are evident in the Playground’s Annual Report, where PC Kev Rogerson is quoted: “The playground, the staff and the volunteers are part of the fabric of the lives of the young people of Shiremoor. They know the young people so well and are always looking to enhance their lives by providing experiences that help raise their confidence and self-esteem. I would say that the Adventure Playground is one of the main factors in helping us keep youth issues ‘in hand’. If we (as the police) are looking to think of ways to divert young people from disruptive behaviour, Keeks and his staff team are the ones we go to for help and advice.”

An independent assessment of QiP noted, “with regards to a playwork approach or playwork ethos, QiP was found time-and-again to have made a significant difference in practice to individuals, their teams, to children and, in one case, a whole authority. Those who had embraced the process described how ‘the light bulb was switched on’ for them, or how they had been on a ‘learning journey of team understanding”. 

Did Shiremoor have this lightbulb moment?

“Our lightbulb has been flickering on and off throughout the process as we have now undertaken the ‘journey’ twice,” says Keeks. “The first time around it was a case of affirmation for the way we worked, with the realisation that although we were confident that we were meeting most of the criteria and standards in the play summary areas, we did not have the evidence to prove this to others! When we were going for re-accreditation the system was familiar and gaps were a lot easier to identify so we could concentrate more on the quality of evidence that we were providing.”

Interested in getting accredited for Quality in Play? Find out more here: