Learning through Play
From being football dominated we now offer an exciting, creative, physical environment which has something to offer everyone. Children are now highly active and interactive; challenged both physically and mentally. There is high quality role play, greater integration across the school and so much creativity. You can build a den, play in the mud kitchen, chat on the benches, swing, challenge yourself on slippery slopes, climb trees – the possibilities are endless and our children love it!
Why this project?
At St Thomas’ we believe that all children need opportunities to play which allow them to explore, manipulate, experience and affect their environment.
Play enables children to learn through experiences that cannot be taught. Through exploring and testing ideas children learn:
- How to make decisions and take responsibilities
- About their bodies and themselves as a person
- About how to get on with people
- About the physical world around them.
As a school we recognise the value of play and aim to develop and offer the widest possible range of outside play environments to meet the needs of all of our children. Play is satisfying and freely chosen by the child. It may be serious or light hearted. It may produce something or it may be done simply for its own sake. We aim to ensure children’s choice over their experiences is promoted in and beyond our grounds.
All children have the right to relax and play, and to join a wide range of activities.
UN Convention on the Rights of the Child Article 31
You have the right to give your opinion, and for adults to listen and take it seriously.
UN Convention on the Rights of the Child Article 12
Children have always developed all the key skills they’ll need for the future (sometimes called soft skills) through playing every single day. It has been thus throughout human history. Self-regulation, cognitive improvement, confidence and character/determination are all highly valued ‘skills’ best improved through play.
One aspect of this positive development is deliberate exposure to situations which appear (to a child) to be challenging or ‘risky’. The presence of a perceived risk, even a small one, sets off a process in the child’s brain – the release of certain hormones. These hormones are messages for various parts of the body, telling muscles, lungs, eyes, nerves, etc. to quickly prepare the child for imminent action of some kind. Heart rate increases and attention sharpens. This learned ability might make us better able to cope with stress, deal with a hard task or make us good at a sport. Equally, it might save our life one day.
What about Health and Safety?
This school follows the guidance on children’s play safety issued in 2012 by the Health and Safety Executive, which can also be found on the Department for Education website . Every aspect of our playtimes has been rigorously risk assessed to a suitable and sufficient degree by competent adults. We are proud to take a proportionate approach and never act negligently.
Before introducing our play project in January this year, all staff had appropriate training and as a result all staff and in particular our lunchtime supervisors are now more focused on pupil safety than ever before.
Whist this school does all that is appropriate to keep pupils ‘safe’ from harm (child protection, bullying, information storage,etc.), we have an equal obligation under the law to ensure each child’s education, wellbeing and proper development. Research shows that when children experience a sensible level of riskiness as they play they will improve cognition, self-confidence, resilience, mental wellbeing, self-regulation, physical fitness and literacy, social skills and emotional skills. Studies also confirm that with increased exposure to educationally beneficial risky play in school, the number of accidents within schools actually decreases over time as children become more adept at assessing potential risks for themselves.
St Thomas’ follows current UK government policy on the positive provision of managed, calculated and challenging risks in children’s play.
We are being supported by OPAL, a registered Community Interest Company dedicated to improving the quality of children’s play opportunities, especially in primary schools. This is a developing project and we hope to continue providing innovative ways to excite our pupils and encourage good quality play.
We welcome comments and ideas so if you have any please speak to a member of staff.