Parents support wellbeing catchup

Concerns over long term impact of play deficit

Time for a play catchup

London Play calls for a ‘summer of play’

Boris, please prioritise play this lockdown

Triple the adventure: award winners

What does the new ‘rule of six’ mean for play streets?

It’s time to put children first

It’s adventure play – but not as we know it

Adventure playgrounds rise to the challenge

 

A huge majority of parents favour ‘catch up’ policies that would improve their children’s wellbeing, research by the Institute for Fiscal Studies has shown.

Simply reopening the school gates will not be enough on its own; addressing the consequences of the pandemic is set to be the most important challenge in education policy over the coming years.

IFS surveyed almost 6,000 parents of school-aged children in England during the last week of February and found that while support for academic catch up policies (and particularly tutoring) is also high, support for policies that would see children spending more time in the classroom – such as longer, school days, summer school, extended school terms, or repeating school years – is below half.

Of the 83 per cent who supported policies aimed at children’s well-being, the largest share believed that in-class activities (such as arts, creative writing or spending time outdoors) would make the biggest difference. Around a quarter of parents prioritised greater access to mental health services. However, only 12 per cent thought that unstructured socialisation time (aka play) should be the top priority.

More on this story is on the IFS website here.

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London Play has joined academics and other play campaigners in calling on the government to support 'a summer of play' to help children recover from the stress of lockdown and a year of Covid upheaval.
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Parents are worried that the loss of freedom to play during the pandemic could have a long term impact on their children, according to new research.

To understand the impact of the pandemic on children and how they play, Great Ormond Street Hospital Charity and Savanta ComRes polled 2,543 parents of children aged between five – 11 years old, from across the UK.

More than half of parents responding say play has boosted family bonds, but they raise the alarm about the loss of kids’ freedom.

More than half of UK parents (61%) say that the pandemic has gifted them more time to play with their children and the same proportion say it has helped boost family bonds, reveals a new ‘State of Play’ report released by Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity (GOSH Charity) today.

“One of the best ways to support children’s wellbeing is giving them the freedom to play. This is not only relevant in a hospital setting such as GOSH, but for all children as they look to cope with whatever challenges they face, including during a global pandemic.”

At a time when kids face huge levels of uncertainty, three-quarters (74%) of parents say that play has “helped their child cope” as the world around them has changed beyond recognition. But more than a year on from the start of the pandemic, parents say the loss of their kid’s freedom to play with friends and wider family is taking its toll, with two thirds (66%) voicing concern about the long term impact this will have on their child’s wellbeing.

More information and a link to the full report is here.

Play news
Four out of five parents support education catch up policies to support their children's wellbeing according to the IFS.
Play news
Withdrawing play time from school children as punishment is an infringement of children's human rights and is a practice which should be stopped, says the British Psychological Society.

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As children return to school today after an enforced absence of more than two months, the sacrifices that they have made during the coronavirus pandemic are high on the public radar.

London Play

And as experts debate the best approach to help children recover, their emotional and mental wellbeing – and not just the gaps in their schooling – is rightly in their sights.

Writing in the Observer this weekend, the recently-appointed education recovery commissioner Sir Kevan Collins acknowledged that what children have lost extends way beyond educational attainment:

“Over the last year children have also lost out on countless other opportunities to learn and grow – through engagement in art, music, sport and play.”

He suggested that a comprehensive plan for recovery should span at least the next three years and that “nothing is off the table” in formulating this. He was clear too, that “the burden of recovery cannot be borne by schools alone.”

This is clearly an opportunity for the play sector to step up and offer to share this burden as the experts in promoting children’s wellbeing through play. If more evidence was needed, research published this week by Great Ormond Street Hospital Charity concludes that “one of the best ways to support children’s wellbeing is giving them the freedom to play. This is not only relevant in a hospital setting such as GOSH, but for all children as they try to cope with whatever challenges they face, including a global pandemic.”

Parents have watched, aghast, the impact of play deprivation on their children during repeated lockdowns.  The GOSH research found that one year on, “parents say the loss of their kid’s freedom to play with friends and wider family is taking its toll, with two thirds (66 per cent) voicing concern about the long term impact this will have on their child’s wellbeing.”

Meanwhile the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) surveyed almost 6,000 parents of school-aged children in England during the last week of February. Their findings show that a huge majority of parents (83 per cent) favour ‘catch up’ policies that would improve their children’s wellbeing. And while support for academic catch up policies (and particularly tutoring) is also high, support for policies that would see children spending more time in the classroom – such as longer, school days, summer school, extended school terms, or repeating school years – is much lower.

The government has already announced a £10m injection for additional after school sports programmes. This is to be welcomed but the interventions need to go much, much further.  Sustained support for play – to fund quality spaces and trained staff – will be a crucial element for a successful recovery.

Play news
The team behind Hackney Playbus has raised more than £30,000 to build a new travelling play centre to provide free support to the borough’s children and families.
Remembering London Play in your will could allow a future generation to benefit from the space and freedom you enjoyed in your youth.

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London Play has joined academics and other play campaigners in calling on the government to support ‘a summer of play’ to help children recover from the stress of lockdown and a year of Covid upheaval.

Instead of extra lessons, catch-up summer schools and longer school days, we believe that children should be encouraged to spend the coming months outdoors, being physically active and having fun with their friends.

As the Guardian reported:

Psychologists have reported behavioural changes in some children following the first lockdown last year. After months of isolation from friends, some struggled to share and play together, teachers reported more fights and fallings-out, and Ofsted observed a worrying drop in physical fitness.

As the government draws up its latest education catch-up plans, to be unveiled in the coming weeks, a group of academics calling themselves PlayFirstUK have written to the education secretary, Gavin Williamson, appealing for a new emphasis on play, mental health and wellbeing as children emerge from lockdown.

“This spring and summer should not be filled with extra lessons,” the letter says. “Children, teachers and parents need time and space to recover from the stress that the past year has placed on them.

As part of a wider recovery process, children should be encouraged and supported to spend time outdoors, playing with other children and being physically active. Where it is needed, evidence-based mental health support must be made available.”

It continues: “This is not an either-or decision. Social connection and play offer myriad learning opportunities and are positively associated with children’s academic attainment and literacy.”

The group cautioned that intensive “catch-up” plans, intended to help pupils make up lost ground as a result of the pandemic, could end up worsening children’s mental health and wellbeing, and have a negative effect on learning in the long term.

Read more here

Play news
The Scottish government has pledged £20m in funding to ensure that children have a Summer of Play to help address the impacts associated with extended periods of isolation and reduced participation in normal activities.
Play news
Four out of five parents support education catch up policies to support their children's wellbeing according to the IFS.

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A joint letter to PM Boris Johnson

Please prioritise children’s wellbeing during this third lockdown in England

Children’s mental and physical health has suffered enormously already and the potential impact of a further extended period without school or normal social interaction is unthinkable.

For children, playing outside (e.g. riding a bike, scooting, kicking a ball around) is an important way to be active, let off steam and interact with the world around them. It is essential for their mental and emotional wellbeing – and for their physical health. This is especially crucial now that children do not have access to either school playtime or after-school sports.

The Welsh government has recognised the significant benefits of outdoor play for children in their Covid guidance, clearly stating that children are allowed to play outside near home. In Scotland, the restrictions around meeting outdoors do not apply to children under 12.

In England however, whilst we welcome the fact that playgrounds remain open, there is currently no clarity for parents on whether informal outdoor play in public space is permitted under lockdown. For children, play is an important form of exercise but this needs to be made explicit by the government so parents can feel confident about letting their children play out without being fined or criminalised.

Along with the Children’s Commissioner for England, we therefore call on the UK government to provide clear, unambiguous guidance that outdoor play is allowed during lockdown, for children’s health and wellbeing. We further support the Children’s Commissioner’s call for children under 12 to be considered differently in the rules about meeting outdoors.

Signed

Alice Ferguson and Ingrid Skeels, Playing Out
Paul Hocker, London Play
Anita Grant, Play England
Dr Wendy Russell, University of Gloucestershire
Adrian Voce OBE, Playful Planet
Professor Alison Stenning, Newcastle University
Dr Helen Dodd, Playfirst UK / University of Reading
Dr Jenny Wood, A Place in Childhood
Ben Tawil and Mike Barclay, Ludicology
Tim Gill, Independent researcher and writer on childhood
Meynell Walter, International Play Association England
Michael Follett, Outdoor Play and Learning
Carley Sefton, Learning through Landscapes
Helen Griffiths, Fields in Trust
Mark E Hardy, Association of Play Industries
David Yearley, Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents
Rob Wheway, Children’s Play Advisory Service
Professor David Ball, Middlesex University
Stevie Edge-McKee, Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust
Dr Sunil Bhopal, Newcastle University

Further signatories to be added

London Play Press Releases
The summer holidays are coming. The government must prioritise children’s needs and issue guidance for summer play providers now. 
Children and young people
In this briefing note, data collected in the last week of February 2021 is analysed to understand parents’ views about two important aspects of the return to school.

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It’s pizza all round for three London adventure playgrounds that kept the spirit of adventure play alive during the ongoing pandemic.

[London Play press release]

Three London adventure playgrounds that went to extraordinary lengths to keep children playing – and in some cases, fed too – during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic were yesterday announced as joint winners of the coveted London Adventure Playground of the Year Award. Excited children and staff at Triangle and Max Roach Adventure Playgrounds in Lambeth and Hackney Marsh Adventure Playground heard the news via a premiere on London Play’s YouTube channel.

Usually celebrated in noisy style with hundreds of children at the Prince Charles Cinema excited to see their own films about the places they play on the big screen, this year’s online event was very different. But the message – that play, and adventure playgrounds in particular, are vital for children’s wellbeing and happiness – endures, and has, if anything, been amplified by circumstances which have seen children’s right and opportunities to play curtailed like never before.

There is no doubt that it has been a challenge for adventure playgrounds, whose ethos is open, tactile and very much ‘hands on’, to adapt their services to the restrictions imposed by the coronavirus pandemic. Located in neighbourhoods where families are more likely to be living in flats with no open space and in potentially challenging circumstances – being forced to close their gates on these children was difficult.  But adapt they did, and the three winning playgrounds stood out for their innovative approaches, demonstrated in the films they submitted as their award entries and in their stories from a summer like no other.

Adventure play
09 April 2020: This briefing has been prepared by London Play and A5cend to help London adventure playgrounds as they rise to the challenge during the COVID 19 pandemic.
Play
London Play’s Neighbourhood Play Havens project aims to ensure that adventurous play is within reach of those children and families who may otherwise be excluded – due to clinical vulnerabilities or capacity limits made necessary by the coronavirus pandemic.

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From Monday 14 September, it will be illegal in England, apart from at school or work or under other few exceptions, for someone to meet more than five other people at a time.

The government is due to publish more detail on what those exceptions are over the coming days, and London Play will examine this closely before updating our guidance on what the new laws mean for play streets.

However, as far as we are aware, there is no plan at present to close public playgrounds. Given that in legal terms, play streets are simply temporary playgrounds, London Play’s view is that under the new rules play streets should still be able to proceed, with a few minor adjustments.  Children need to play – now more than ever – and a play street is one of the safer options for them to exercise their right to do so.

As always, it is ultimately up to residents and organisers to decide whether they feel comfortable to proceed with their play street plans; and also bear in mind that the situation is liable to change at short notice. For those that decide to go ahead, we would advise as follows:

• As per our previous guidance, the emphasis should be on creating traffic free streets for play; and not on community gathering.  The sharing of food and drink is discouraged.

• Organisers should ensure that all those participating are aware of the ‘rule of six’ and the potential for fines to be handed to those who do not comply;

• Organisers should also make clear that, as usual, adults on a play street are responsible for themselves and their children.  Therefore they are also responsible for ensuring that they and their children do not gather in groups of more than six while the play street is in session.

To help organisers make clear where the responsibility for complying with government legislation lies, London Play has a produced an adaptable A4 poster which can be laminated and affixed to lamp posts during the play street session or posted through residents’ letterboxes in advance. Download it here.

Play streets taking place over the weekend 12/13 September can proceed under the existing guidelines. We will update our play street guidance once the detail of the new legislation has been published.

The Cabinet Office statement on the new rule of six is here.

London Play’s guidance for post lockdown play streets is here.

Play news
Parents are worried that the loss of freedom to play during the pandemic could have a long term impact on their children.
Current work
Would you like your street to come alive with play? The good news is that in many parts of London, starting a play street is fairly easy.

FIND A PLACE TO PLAY

Click here to go to our play map and find adventure playgrounds, play streets and all our other favourite places to play in London.
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Children are the invisible victims of the coronavirus pandemic. As lockdown eases, it is time to prioritise their right to play.

LONDON PLAY STATEMENT

Publication

For the last two months, children have been forbidden from playing with children outside their own households. Playgrounds have been closed and although ‘exercise’ has been accepted as a valid reason to leave the house, ‘play’ has not. Now, as the lockdown eases, children’s human right and need to play is again being neglected. Allowing people to meet ‘one other person’ in the park excludes children and their families from the same right that single adults currently enjoy, to have social contact beyond their household.

This is perhaps inevitable when there is no voice for children at cabinet level; no one responsible in government for children’s wellbeing in regard to play. The focus on education to the exclusion of all else conceives of children solely as economic entities of the future. But they are people, whose formative experiences will affect them now and forever – and shape society for a long time to come.

Risk vs benefit

The government now deems that the risk of sending some children back to school is acceptable. This may help meet the educational needs of the small proportion that attend – but does not address equally important emotional and physical needs; for them or the many who will not be returning this term. Play is how children make sense of the world, and as they emerge into a radically changed landscape after two months of isolation, they need it now more than ever.

It is becoming increasingly clear that the risk to children (and their families) of allowing them to play outside is very low.

Children do not become infected as easily as adults. If they are infected, children are extremely unlikely to become seriously ill with the disease, and many are asymptomatic. The overall trend emerging from the evidence to date suggests that children have a limited role in spreading the virus – partly due to the mildness of symptoms. Finally, the risk of outdoor transmission is low.

London Play sees a bigger risk in continuing to deprive children of play and opportunities to socialise. Prior to the pandemic, one in 10 children and young people suffered from poor mental health. In the early phases of the lockdown, 83 per cent of young people surveyed by Young Minds reported that the coronavirus pandemic has made their mental health worse. What about now, two months on? In London, some 37 per cent of children were living in poverty prior to the pandemic hitting; this will only rise. One in five children in the capital lives in an overcrowded home and many do not have access to their own outside space.

For all these reasons, children need to play; and the government must act decisively now to make sure they can do so. London Play is calling on the government to make children’s wellbeing a priority as it prepares to announce the next steps out of lockdown.

We strongly recommend the following steps:

• Commit to a principle of easing lockdown in ways that prioritise the wellbeing of children and families.
• Implement a framework to comprehensively assess the impact lockdown has had on children’s lives and take steps to support children’s right to emotional wellbeing through play.
• The government should seriously consider allowing children from two households to meet and play together outside in public – in the park or in their street – without social distancing, as long as neither family has contact with vulnerable people.

Summer is a long time in the life of a seven year old. We cannot wait any longer to act.

London Play in the news
London Play has joined academics and other play campaigners in calling on the government to support 'a summer of play' to help children recover from the stress of lockdown and a year of Covid upheaval.
A single donation will help us with our work today; a regular donation will help us plan for the future. There are a number of ways that you can donate:

FIND A PLACE TO PLAY

Click here to go to our play map and find adventure playgrounds, play streets and all our other favourite places to play in London.
VISIT OUR PLAY MAP
 

Two thirds of London’s adventure playground organisations report that they are now delivering new services, with many becoming vital hubs for food distribution.

Adventure playground organisations have been quietly supporting children and families in some of the capital’s most disadvantaged communities for decades. So it is no surprise that our recent survey confirms they have adapted quickly to respond to the huge additional challenges these same families now face in light of the coronavirus pandemic.

Adventure playgrounds may have closed their gates to children in person, but two months into lockdown, it is clear that they are not resting on their laurels. Two thirds of the adventure playground organisations which responded to London Play’s recent survey report that they are now delivering new services, with many becoming vital hubs for food distribution. Others are moving their play offer online and some are delivering emergency play packs to their most vulnerable families.

As demand for food banks soar, the team at Max Roach Adventure Playground in Lambeth is delivering ‘happy lunches’ and play packs by bicycle to their most vulnerable users. Nearby Grove Adventure Playground is also using two wheels to deliver food parcels while Haringey’s Somerford Grove has seen a big increase in demand for the fresh surplus food it is distributing from the Felix Project .

Adaptations
Other adventure playgrounds have adapted their play services – with some, in particular those catering specifically for children with special needs, opening on a very limited (often family by family) basis over recent weeks. These include Haringey’s Markfield, Haywards in Islington, The Ark in Newham and Kids Adventure Playground in Hackney and all have put in place rigorous cleaning regimes and updated risk assessments.

For playgrounds whose gates remain closed, ingenuity in developing online play ideas and resources is much in evidence. In Islington, Awesome CIC has set up the ‘Adventurers Hangout’ featuring a treasure trove of films with playful ideas. From Lambeth, the Triangle Play Zone offers children a weekly timetable with Zoom and Houseparty play and games sessions, nature club activities and videos, fitness and boxing sessions. Weekly challenge videos are a highlight, including Toilet roll kick ups and paper plane flying. And who could fail to raise a smile with Redbridge’s ELHAP Monday morning disco this week?

Social distancing
But as one survey respondent pointed out, these online initiatives “do not replace play,” and adventure playground teams, concerned about children being stuck inside for so long, are keen to welcome them back in person as soon as possible. There are big questions about how social distancing will be implemented when playgrounds are able to open again and whether such limitations on play will in fact be counterproductive to children’s wellbeing. Triangle trustee Anne-Marie Martin said: “Clearly attendance will be limited, and it is hard to reconcile the ethos of adventure play with social distancing, but I am sure we will find a way.”

In the meantime, although 80 per cent of playground organisations have had to furlough workers, a majority of those still working are using the time away from running physical face to face sessions to ensure that they are in a strong position when they are able to resume; writing funding proposals and carrying out essential maintenance on their playgrounds.

Says Harriet Simmons, manager of the Adventure Play Hub: “Our playground has had some much needed TLC and we’ve been working with volunteers on re-decorating and other repairs. We’ve attended funding opportunities and support/advice cluster meetings via Zoom which has been very useful.”

London Play Press Releases
From Monday 14 September, it will be illegal in England, unless at school or work, for someone to meet more than five other people at a time. What does this mean for play streets?
Play news
Enjoyment is the single biggest factor in motivating children to be active according to new research.
Play news
LAMBETH: Lambeth Council has laid out proposals to transform the commissioning of youth and play support services in the borough, including winding down the Young Lambeth Cooperative.

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Adventure playgrounds may have closed their gates, but they have not closed the door on their ‘playing customers’, London’s children.

London’s adventure playgrounds are rising to the significant challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic and continuing to support some of the capital’s most vulnerable children and families through the crisis. As the Easter holidays begin, adventure playground workers have turned their considerable skills and creativity to developing new online and remote channels of playfulness to keep children playing at home. Others have become hubs for community food distribution, even as they grapple with the uncertainty that lies ahead.

Some 90 per cent of respondents to London Play’s recent adventure playground survey said they intended to maintain communications with their users; and more than half planned to deliver some services remotely. Numerous examples of their ability to adapt and respond to the needs of the communities that they serve have come to light in recent days:

* Loughborough Community Centre at Max Roach is delivering free lunch and exchangeable play resources to children’s doors, three days a week during the Easter holidays.

* Haringey’s Somerford Grove Adventure Playground is working with the Felix Project to collect surplus food donations each Thursday for distributing to the local community.

* Hackney Play Association is inviting children to share their ideas for play during lockdown; as well as drawings or paintings of the view from their window to include in an online gallery called ‘My View’. Send photos to ideas@hackneyplay.org or complete the survey here.

* Lambeth’s Triangle Adventure Playground has launched an online PlayZone and YouTube channel to run a programme of activities for its children. Staff said: “Jon and Gabriel and Eldith and Jake and Laura and Darragh and Rob miss all of you so we want to see the Triangle kids having fun wherever you are.”

Financial concerns

Financial worries are unsurprisingly a key concern for adventure playground organisations which already operate under severe budget constraints. Many are unsure about whether some funding will continue in light of their inability to deliver against agreed targets. And although the jobs of most permanent staff appear to be relatively safe at this stage, around half of adventure playgrounds responding to the survey also said that they may have to consider laying off sessional workers. Unsurprisingly they are also ready to act to mitigate the financial impact, with around 80 per cent of survey respondents hoping to use the closure time to write funding bids.

Despite these very real concerns, the resilience and creativity of the staff at London’s unique adventure playgrounds is what stands out. London Play is committed to doing what we can to help and will be looking at how best to do this, along with publishing tips and guidance, in the coming days and weeks. If you work at an adventure playground, please do get in touch with any suggestions or questions or anything you want to share.

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