Play England is delighted to be launching the latest edition of Quality in Play, a quality assurance system and framework that has been tried and tested in practice by hundreds of play and childcare providers for over 20 years.
As one of the original developers of Quality in Play, Mick Conway explains what all the fuss is about.
It’s really tough for the play sector and getting tougher in a new world of commissioning, so anything that can help play providers get ‘commission-ready’, win tenders and secure funding has to be a good thing. In an era of unprecedented government funding cuts, local authority commissioners and other funders are intensely focusing on the quality of services and value for money.
So how can Quality in Play (QiP) help? For play providers, the challenge is to demonstrate quality and value for money whilst at the same time working to the Playwork Principles to create and maintain excellent staffed play environments. Quality in Play is, essentially, about helping providers to achieve this, and being able to demonstrate it. And now, there is no cost for the latest edition of Quality in Play – it’s free to download from the Play England website.
Quality assurance sounds rather dry and bureaucratic. Systems, procedures, all that sort of stuff. But the reality is that once play providers actually start on the QiP journey, they find it incredibly rewarding. ‘It was a genuine process,’ says Keeks McGarry from Shiremoor Adventure Playground, ‘which involved everyone in the organisation – especially the children. It was challenging, particularly the reflective practice, but it helped us identify weak points and come up with solutions collectively.’
Mark Halden manages Glamis Adventure Playground in East London. ‘More and more funders are asking us for some sort of quality mark, and this is particularly so of our local council, who make it a condition of the Main Stream Grant, that we have a current quality assessment certificate. In addition, the rigorous process of QiP ensures that we review our policies and practices on a regular basis.’
So what does Quality in Play involve?
The manual takes you through a clear and systematic process, helping you assess every aspect of quality play provision. As a staff and management team, you work through the system at your own pace, creating a portfolio of evidence to show that you ‘say what you do, and do what you say.’ QiP is both a framework for service development and a quality assurance system: identifying strengths and areas needing development to get you to where you need to be to robustly demonstrate the quality of your service. In essence, building your portfolio is like getting a bespoke programme of management consultancy that doesn’t cost you a penny!
Play England offers a QiP assessment – a ‘critical friend’ visit and report from an experienced assessor who can provide independent confirmation that you meet quality standards, as well as making recommendations and advice for future development. The assessment costs £500. We encourage organisations to include the cost of the assessment when they make funding applications.
When I led the Quality in Play workshop at the National Playwork Conference, I let people into a little secret about some of the things we’re looking for when we do assessments! We visit your provision to go through the portfolio and talk to staff and management. But everything stops when the children arrive. For the next ten to fifteen minutes, we closely watch the body language of the children as they come into the place: how they interact with the staff, if they have to get permission or not to use resources or equipment, what choices they can and do make. We gain a huge insight into your playwork culture and ethos in those few minutes!
The QiP accreditation is nationally recognised as a credible and authoritative indicator of excellence in play provision.
Before the actual assessment, you’ll be asked to complete a pre-assessment checklist, to help make sure you’ve got all the paperwork and information needed. This means that the assessor’s visit can focus on how policies are put into practice on site.
In terms of support, we’re always on the end of the phone – although pretty much every single question we get can be answered in the ‘How to use the manual’ section, so please read it carefully! We’ve also set up a Facebook group to support organisations working towards accreditation, so you can ask questions and share good practice.
So, what are you waiting for?
Get your organisation going on the QiP journey!
This article was originally published in IpDip.