Sharing EP Practice | Promoting Children’s Access To Their Right To PlayMay 30, 2022
Dr Natasha Goodhall shares how Salford Educational Psychology Service is taking proactive steps to promoting children’s access to their right to play, through the Right to Play Project.
The Right to Play
Children of all ages have a want, need and right to play. It is enshrined in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC, 1989). Children having sufficient amounts of time, space and permission for play brings with it a wide range of benefits both in the moment and longer term.
The Right to Play Project
The pandemic has led to changes in where, when, how and with whom play occurs for many children. Active and social forms of play have been most restricted, with children from minoritised groups potentially experiencing the greatest of restrictions. This is on top of decades of diminishing access to play for many children. Thanks to our Executive Principal Educational Psychologist, Claire Jackson, an opportunity to enhance children’s play access was identified through the Department for Education Wellbeing for Education Return commission for 2022-23. Reflecting on the importance of play for recovery, but also for longer term wellbeing and development, we identified three aims of the project:
- to improve awareness of and children’s access to their right to play;
- to improve time, space and permission for play (3 ingredients of play sufficiency);
- to make the case for play longer-term, to enable us to continue to embed right to play practice within our role.
To achieve these aims, through team discussion, we identified three strands for the project:
- awareness raising through whole school staff training sessions, for primary and secondary, including specialist settings, inviting schools to take part on a voluntary basis;
- further development work with a small group of particularly keen settings, those who express interest in further developing their play policies and provision, following a plan-do-review process;
- embedding right to play practice in how we work.
We are currently in the delivery phase of the project: awareness raising. The training session involves thinking about what play is, its link to the UNCRC, the benefits and barriers to play, and thinking about opportunities to best support children’s access to their right to play in school. Feedback shared by school staff so far includes how they have valued the opportunity to reflect on their own play, have the importance of play reinforced, reflect on key groups most at risk of having play access restricted and the impact of the pandemic, and reflect on and discuss their own current practices and ideas to develop in school. Some ideas expressed around what they would do differently following the training included thinking about how to gather children’s views around play access in their schools, organise and provide resources that enable more choice-making within play, reflect on the role of adults within play, plan how to share the importance of play with children and parents, and how to incorporate the right to play into existing or new policies.
We have also been reflecting on the strand involving embedding right to play practice, and as a team of three EP Services have developed a Position Statement, outlining the importance of play, its benefits, and the ways in which we are committing to promoting it within our service. Read Salford's Position Statement here.
Reflections and further plans
- Identifying where the right to play fits within a specific commission has given us the time as a team to meaningfully plan and deliver this project.
- Schools were informed about the project through local authority communications, link EPs and social media.
- Linking with other services we collaborate with (e.g. Virtual School, CAMHS, Specialist Teachers) has been important, and they too are keen to share the same messages around the importance of play.
- Alternatives to withdrawing play access has formed part of our new Emotionally Friendly Settings accreditation criteria, providing an opportunity for development for interested schools.
- Providing right to play training through other means, e.g. the Emotionally Friendly Settings Conference and other wellbeing events is also providing the opportunity to spread awareness.
- Gaining ‘buy in’ from secondary (non-specialist) settings has proven difficult so far, despite us advocating for the importance of play for older children. A key part of the secondary training session involves challenging the assumption that older children (and adults) don’t play, and what form play may take at different ages and stages. We are continuing to reflect on this.
- The training and development work will remain as an offer to schools as part of their commissioned EP time, and we will continue to reflect on how to further link in with partners and commissions to embed practice and reach a larger number of schools.
We hope that through promoting access to the right to play in how we collaborate and work with schools, children and young people, parents and carers, and fellow services, we are going to be able to make a difference to children and young people’s lives in the short and longer term. Hoping that you too can identify the opportunity to advocate for children’s play within your roles and services.
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