Play Strategy hits second gear
Thursday 14 May 2009
The first year of the Play Strategy's
national capital-funding programme for play areas is now complete.
Adrian Voce, director of the government's national delivery partner
Play England, reviews the progress so far.
The Play Strategy has been described by ministers as
"totemic" of The Children's Plan's aim to make England the
best place in the world for children to grow up. It is an ambitious
10-year plan to transform children's play opportunities, beginning
with a three-year programme, which started last April, to build
3,500 local play areas and 30 staffed adventure playgrounds.
A huge effort by the first wave of local authority play
pathfinders and playbuilders over the last year, supported by Play
England, part of NCB, saw Children's Secretary Ed Balls announce
the first 500 new sites open before Easter, putting the programme
firmly on schedule.
The new play areas are based on the ground-breaking guidance
Design for Play, which was produced by Play England. An
early evaluation of the success of this approach - active
participation in bespoke designs, with more landscaping and natural
materials - is encouraging. The report, by Ipsos Mori, found
"parents and children were positive about the recent
improvements…they felt they spent longer periods of time on the
sites due to the increased variety and appeal. Local authorities
reported higher numbers of users following improvements."
The new adventure playgrounds to be built by the pathfinder
authorities, which each receive around £2m compared with the £1m
for playbuilders, will also follow Play England guidance. This aims
to bring the qualities of the traditional adventure playground into
the new era for play, leading to 30 "unique spaces, dedicated
solely to children's play, where skilled playworkers enable and
facilitate the ownership, development and design of that space -
physically, socially and culturally - by the children playing
There is more to the Play Strategy than new
playgrounds. It is central to the government's aim, set out in the
statutory guidance to children's trusts, to make communities more
child-friendly. This "will require a strategic approach to play
across the local area, with the full involvement of children, local
communities and the third sector in decision-making" and involving
"issues such as town and highways planning and the management and
maintenance of public space".
New guidance on Implementing the Play Strategy, shortly
to be published by the Department for Children, Schools and
Families and Play
England, aims to assist directors of children's services and
their partners to truly make this the best place in the world to