There is a link, I promise: Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and play

I accept that at first blush it might seem odd to link words such as play, children, teenagers, risk-taking to the international trade talks currently being conducted between the European Union and the United States of America.  But there is a link, and it is potentially a threatening one. The talks, known as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), has as its general aim the lowering of what are described as ‘barriers’ to trade between, in this case, the EU and the USA.

One aspect of the so-named ‘barriers’ are Standards.  Standards in respect of, among others things: environmental protection; specification of electrical goods; of additives to food; in respect of cosmetics and testing; and standards in respect of, well, play equipment and playground surfacing.

The TTIP negotiations are conducted in virtual secrecy – itself a major source of concern – but Greenpeace has managed to acquire confidential papers that reveal, in part at least, the state of play between the parties.  The now released confidential papers are, says Greenpeace, at some variance from the EU’s publicly expressed opinion. Part of what is revealed is the US demand that the EU be put under an obligation to inform the US, in advance, of any planned regulations and to allow them the same ‘input into EU regulatory processes as European firms’ (Source: Guardian. 2 May). Continue reading

Follow-up: copy of email from anti-sats test strike campaign – thought you might like to know

Wow what a 24 hours!

KS1 SPaG cancelled, national media outlets getting in touch with us to speak to YOU our lovely supporters up and down the country about the incredible #KidsStrike3rdMay events YOU are organising, mentioned in the New Day newspaper and on BBC Radio 4 breakfast news!  We also hit the 10,000 likers mark on our facebook page!

We believe this is the first time parents have made such an active stand against the Government on a national scale and we have achieved an incredible amount in just over 3 weeks by WORKING TOGETHER to show our SUPPORT for schools and teachers.

We are delighted that KS1 SPaG tests have been cancelled, however we need to carry on our campaign to make sure this is only the start as OUR children still have other SATs to sit in 2016.  We have the perfect chance NOW to show that teacher assessment alone IS enough and SATs should be removed from OUR schools.

For everything you need to take part on 3rd May please visit the Let Kids Be Kids website  – there’s FAQs, absence letters and you can add your event to our map to ensure that every person who makes a stand is accounted for.  Many wonderful headteachers and lovely class teachers have come out to support our campaign – we really think this is a turning point in how our children will be taught in the future.  Thank you for being a part of it.

We are very close to 25,000 people signing our peititon to support a SATs boycott… please keep sharing… Parent Power is proving to be very powerful!

http://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/parents-support-sats-boycott-kids-strike-3rd-may

Thank you, Let Our Kids Be Kids.

Parental strike against school testing – hint, intimation, or flash in the pan?

Straw in the wind?  Harbinger? Hint or intimation? Dunno.

Snowball in hell? Impossible odds? Flash in the pan? Dunno.

Still, worth noting that at the time of writing 24,412 parents (or people claiming to be parents) have signed an online petition supporting a strike – yes, worth reading that again: a STRIKE – that will keep some kids out of school for a day in protest against SATs testing at an early age.

Worth noting, too, is the parental plea – or do I mean ‘demand’?

‘ We want our kids to be kids again and enjoy learning for learning’s sake not for Ofsted results or league table figures. Bring back the creativity and the fun – say goodbye to repetition and boredom!’

‘Learning for its own sake’ .  There, in the second paragraph. Unadorned and unashamed.

A Headteacher writing in support of the strike, eloquently sets out the damaging consequences of high stakes testing.   The letter ends apologising for not signing the letter, or giving the name of the school ‘because I’m afraid of repercussions’.

Not to be pursued in this short blog, but there is a wider issue here, and that is the contraction of the public space available for independent thought and action.  Areas other than education should perhaps reflect on this.

Parents refusing to send their child to school without good reason – a strike is not likely to be seen as a good reason – lay themselves open to a daily fine of £60.00 rising to £120.00 a day if not paid within 21 days.  The price of independent action?

As to the evidence that might support the value of independence, there is none. It is not susceptible to the sort of evidence that is purportedly considered persuasive.  The Good Ship Independence must proceed under its own power, aided of course by a fair wind. But then, one can also make one’s own weather.

You may wish to sign the petition.

Review of Adrian Voce’s book ‘Policy for Play: Responding to children’s forgotten right’

I was invited by the International Journal of Play to write a review of  Adrian Voce’s ‘Policy for Play: Responding to children’s forgotten right’. 

This is the original manuscript of the review published by Taylor & Francis in International Journal of Play on 15 March 2016  available online http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/21594937.2016.1146492

Policy for Play is at once a eulogy for the demise of an unfulfilled, wished-for future, and a statement of faith in the need for, and possibility of, resurrection.

The unfulfilled future is the Play Strategy for England which did not live long beyond its birth; the hope of resurrection resides in the belief of many play advocates, and certainly the author’s,  that children’s ‘forgotten right’ to play can be secured only by a national, all-embracing policy (or strategy, the terms are used interchangeably) for play.

Policy for Play is Adrian Voce’s well-written account of the rationale for national play polices, and a detailed history of attempts to secure such a policy for England.  It is an insider’s account, one that chronicles the twists and the turns, the ups and the downs, of this singular pursuit. Continue reading

Reflection on court finding no negligence in injury at play claim

Attention has rightly been drawn to a recent British Columbia (Canada) Supreme Court Judgment that, whilst not serving as precedent in other jurisdictions, is both interesting and useful.  You can read the judgment here.

In brief, the civil law case – brought under British Columbia Occupiers Liability Act 1996 – focuses on a negligence claim against the District of Saanich by, at the time of the incident, an 11 year old child (represented by a litigation guardian) who was injured as the result of falling during a ‘tag’ game – known locally as ‘grounders’ – from one level of a play equipment’s platform to another.  The incident occurred during a day camp taking place on a school playground, though not a school project.  The day camp provision was supervised.

I recommend that those concerned with risk, liability, negligence and related issues in respect of play (and more widely, leisure and sports) read the judgment in its entirety.  It is not a long document, and the court’s line of thinking that led it to dismiss the negligence claim is clearly spelled out.  I was intrigued by one aspect of the judgment, and that’s what prompts me to write this piece.  But more of that anon. Continue reading

Dehli thought

Delhi – hot, colourful, polluted, noisy, crowded.  Wonderful in it own particular way.

The roads, traffic seething: cars, three-wheeled autos, pedal rickshaws, buses – some new(ish), some distinctly rickety. Taxis, swarms of bicycles, motorbikes, some seemingly transporting entire families.

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And people, all ages – that’s ‘all’ ages – crossing the turbulent traffic sea as the mood or need takes them with what appears to be suicidal intent; though, eventually, I, too, acquire novice suicidal status, willing oncoming traffic to avoid me as I hazard to cross to the other side of the road.

IMG_2792 Continue reading

From values to counting: the apoliticisation of play (and much else)

One way of characterising the play sector, if indeed it constitutes a sector, is that it is apolitical and dependent, those two qualities interacting and exacerbating each other.

By apolitical, I mean that it has no obvious popular or voter support, nor is much attention directed towards securing it. Rather, the ‘sector’ concentrates its efforts on being persuasive within the established corridors of power. To gain leverage there the approach has been to follow the national and local state’s increasing reliance on reducing questions of value and principle into essentially technical matters, the clearest expression of this being the  reliance on suppositious ‘evidence’.

The other characteristic is dependency. By dependency I mean that the play sector is overwhelmingly reliant on national and local state funding, along with key charitable funders whose procedures and priorities so often mirror that of the state. There is a link between dependent status and the apolitical orientation of the play sector. Whilst it is the case that the sector can erupt in support of organisations and projects that are under threat, for the most part it is funded projects and organisations lobbying on behalf of projects and organisations that are structurally in the same position – dependent on external funding. A cynic might suggest that there is a strong sense of ‘there but for the grace of god go I’ pulsing beneath the surface of solidarity. However, that does not invalidate it. Continue reading