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
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
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
‘ For three-and-a-half years, all pupils at St Ninians primary have walked or run a mile each day. They do so at random times during the day, apparently happily, and despite the rise in childhood obesity across the UK, none of the children at the school are overweight.
‘The daily mile has done so much to improve these children’s fitness, behaviour and concentration in lessons that scores of nursery and primary schools across Britain are following suit and getting pupils to get up from their desks and take 15 minutes to walk or run round the school or local park.‘ The Guardian Monday 28 September.
The scheme was introduced by the now retired Headteacher, Elaine Wyllie. In an interesting interview on the Today Programme (6 November. The interview starts at 2.43.32, near the end of the programme) she filled out more details of the scheme: Continue reading
I want to pursue the discussion about ‘evidence’ as it affects, or is said to affect, policy and funding decisions about play. I allow myself this indulgence in part because I suspect I am at least partially responsible for provoking comment on the subject; and of course Tim Gill is also thoroughly culpable in this regard.
Before proceeding, however, it’s necessary to dispose of straw man arguments that suggest I am opposed to the collection and dissemination of evidence in support of play. A position which, if held, would be absurd.
Nevertheless, the case for evidence deserves some scrutiny, especially when it tips over into wishful thinking. But first the work of disposal. Continue reading
So far as social policy is concerned, I doubt that evidence alone will ever swing policy one way or the other, though the claim is that it should, perhaps that it does.
Belief in ‘evidence-based’ policy making has similarities with belief in myth. Myths, by definition, are not expressions of literal truths. Rather, they provide us with stories of origin, tales of titanic battles, of victor over vanquished, that are used to express and justify the values and beliefs now held, along with the practices said to flow from them. In that sense, myths are foundational; they provide the basis for justifying current decisions.
Our relationship with myth, then, is a combination of both a backward and a forward look. Its backward glance is tinged with a sort of nostalgia, a yearning for that mythical time when matters were clear. When there was black and there was white. Where one had to win. There was no grey.
And so, in the attempt to affect this messy, uncertain, unpredictable world of human comings and goings, a sort of nostalgia takes hold. In our case, a nostalgia for the sort of certainties and predictable patterns that the natural sciences can reveal. Sure the natural sciences proceed in part by way of an avid enthusiasm for doubt, for testing and often overturning existing assumptions. Nevertheless, they are quite hot on identifying how cause ‘x’ prompt effect ‘y’. Whereas in our messy human world, over millennia, individuals and societies remain undecided on matters as fundamental as child rearing. Is it, for example, better for future ‘outcomes’ to ‘spare the rod and spoil the child’ or to affect a more liberal, permissive stance in child-rearing practice? It has not been, nor is it, nor will it be the evidence that decides the matter. The type of question posed here is connected by superhighway to fundamental questions about the nature of childhood, the purpose of life and so forth. There will be no final settlement of the question. Continue reading