A conversation about Play England’s future – an invitation to all

A conversation about Play England’s future – an invitation to all

We are asking individuals and organisations to circulate this letter to your mailing lists and contacts.

At Play England’s recent meeting entitled ‘Children’s Play – The Challenge Ahead’, a significant number of people agreed that now was the time to generate a wide-ranging discussion about PE’s future role, this discussion also to consider how PE should go about its business. The emphasis was very much on looking forward in an open minded and mutually supportive way, aware of past and current initiatives and programmes, but not to be governed by these.

This is not a meeting called by PE. It is an informal initiative generated by one of the discussion groups at the ‘Challenge Ahead’ meeting. It will only develop if those committed to children’s and teenagers’ play (PE members and non-members alike) engage with it. The intention is to try and create a space for open-ended dialogue, a chance for all of us, PE trustees and staff included, to think beyond organisational interests to broader questions. We have been in discussion with PE trustees about this series of discussions and they are positive about the initiative and keen to participate.

This letter aims simply to take matters to the next stage. It is an invitation to all those committed to children’s and teenagers’ right to play to join a series of discussions about PE and its prospective future. This initiative is rooted in the commitment to encourage a more open and diverse engagement with the key questions that face us. The formal positions PE might come to as the result of the discussions are a matter for it to decide through its due processes.

Play England is now independent, meaningfully in control of its own future. The signatories of this letter acknowledge that the transition to independence has not been easy and value the ongoing hard work put in by voluntary committee members and staff during the transition and beyond. As a matter of fact, it is important to recognise that the resources (both financial and human) available to PE are currently minimal.

Some of the discussion themes to have emerged thus far include, but are not limited to:

  • In what way, and by what means, can independent, dispassionate thought and talk be encouraged?
  • How can play organisations, supporters and stakeholders work better together and support each other in the current political environment? How can we support each other?
  • Should more reliance be placed on individuals to make voluntary commitments of time and energy to carry forward thinking and action in respect of play in England?  Is it realistic to do so?  (Ask not what Play England can do for you, but what you can do for play in England!).
  • If ‘yes’ to the above, how might this be achieved, and what should be the relation between this voluntary endeavour and PE?
  • How might PE and its supporters campaign on behalf of children’s play, and how might the diverse policy and commitment streams in the area of play be more fruitfully, more cohesively, inter-connected?
  • How might PE and its supporters better reflect the diversity of England’s population?
  • Is there a need to make a decisive break with thinking that assumes progress can be made only if PE is externally funded?
  • To what extent, if any, should PE involve itself in direct service delivery?
  • How might more effective alliances be formed with non-play specific organisations, groupings and campaigns that nevertheless affect the practical realisation of the right to play?
  • What are the major themes/issues ‘play’ should be addressing?

The intention is to hold a series of informal discussions with those who respond to this invitation.  The first step is for those who would like to be involved in the discussions to respond to this email with your contact details, briefly stating any points or issues you would like to see raised.  The discussion topics will be determined by those participating as will decisions about location(s).

It needs to be stressed that this initiative is entirely unfunded and can only be carried forward with the active support of those who wish to participate. This includes, for example, such practical matters as securing no-cost venues, and perhaps building up a modest ‘petty cash’ fund that can help pay travel costs for those who need some help with travelling expenses.

Please note that the signatories of this letter are in no sense leaders of this initiative, their current role being limited to formulating this invitation, accepting and sharing the responses. What happens thereafter will need to emerge in the light of the responses received.

We hope that sufficient responses will have been received by Wednesday 30 September for respondents to then decide next moves.

We look forward to hearing from you. You can respond, saying whether or not you would be interested in participating in such a conversation, and any other thoughts you might have about timing, venue, process, content, etc. Please respond to either or both of us by email (below) to register your interest in participating.

Bernard Spiegal (info@playlink.org.uk)
Wendy Russell (wendyrussell@ntlworld.com)

 Please note that leaving a comment does not consttitute acceptance of this invitation. To do that, please respond directly to one or both of the email addresses above. Thank you.

8 responses to “A conversation about Play England’s future – an invitation to all

  1. Bernard, with all due respect, I am not sure it is just PE we need to be discussing, so I’ll throw in Fair Play for Children, and I’m sure there are others with allied agenda.

    I am intrigued by the comment re external funding, we have adopted this in FP, but it’s a serious step. For us it means, no funding, but that is not the only interpretation. E.g. crowd-funding, and I’m keen to talk about that as a means of setting up a nationwide fund/appeal, with local delivery.

    There seems to me to be two levels – the grassroots provision, the funded end of which was the first to be clobbered, and the most clobbered – showing that years of patiently building, providing evidence maybe overlooked the entirely fragile nature of the support and understanding that was there. Lip- service – we are experts in recognising that for sure, along with all the brass-hat photo opportunities that litter the pathway.

    The other is at central government level and here the battle has been lost to date, as set against the current laws around provision (which I have to say many do not even realise exists) and beyond that, Article 31.1 and 31.2 and General Comment 17 on A31.

    I think we need a root and branch rethink, and if brave entities like FP and PE have to give way to what is relevant, so be it.

    But this geezer starts from a simple social justice premise, if adult Arts and Sport have their ‘Councils’ I am tempted to ask we ask WTF doesn’t Play, or aren’t the kids that important. We also need a healthy dose of Reminder re A12, or, ‘asking the kids and meaning it’.

    Lastly, I have always seen a continuum between Play and Youth work, I refuse the surrender of the young person’s right to play to the charade of NEET-chasing that it’s become across the country. So, the Right to Play when you are a Child, up to sodding 18, and then some more.

    Likewise, that it’s about Play Value not all the varieties of amateur social work, brain surgery, juvenile justice and the like that are pushed to us as criteria of justification. Working in the field since 1971, knee-high to a (tall) grasshopper, all I can say is Play Produces a Better Person.

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    • Jan, Thanks for your comments.

      As I’m committed, at this stage of the process – the next stages still to be determined by those responding to the invitation – to maintaining a judicious silence on matters of substance, I’ll go no further than hope that your comment indicates that you will participate in the conversation, which I would certainly welcome. Our – Wendy and me – hope is that we’ll get back to people and circulate responses to the invitation in October. I’m going to send you an email direct, so make sure you’re in the email loop.

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  2. Kuljit Singh Walia

    Great way to move forward. I would like to see play as a statutory requirement for local councils to provide a service. How this happens on a politics level on central government I wouldn’t know. I assume play England would be our voice with play Wales and Scotland.

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    • Dear Kuljit

      Thanks for taking an interest in the proposed conversation, and for your comment. Could I ask you to send me an email – info@playlink.org – (I don’t have yours) confirming your interest in being part of the conversation. That way, you’ll be integrated into our, currently, rather underdeveloped communication system ( though ‘system’ may be an over-statement) Thanks
      Bernard

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  3. Dear Bernard,

    I enjoyed reading your blog; raising very valid discussion points.

    My thoughts about Play England’s future;

    I feel that the importance of children’s play has been easily sidelined due to a lack of a collective strong voice. I feel that an independent Play England can be in a very strong position to build lasting and collaborative links with Play Scotland, Play Wales and PlayBoard without restrictions. I feel that national communication should be on behalf of these 4 organisations in a more public way than it has been; to demonstrate a strong and united resolve.

    For instance; responding to major news articles, journal articles etc..

    Smaller play organisations to have more obvious links with these 4 organisations, so what is happening at play provision and grass roots level can influence strategic thought and planning, nationally.

    Kind regards,

    Jane

    Jane Roberts

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  4. Very interested in this conversation – I don’t have any particular query
    Kate Smith, Tiverton Adventure Playground 07842 644880

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