Working together for children and play

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.

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