What is happening to School Playtime?

School playtime is more important than ever after the pandemic. So why is it getting pushed aside?

In May 2019 the Playtime Matters Report concluded that school playtime was ‘disappearing to make way for more lessons’. The report revealed that they need extra time to ‘increase teaching time and manage poor behaviour’. This extra time was being pinched from that allocated to playing outside.

Today, factoring in the impact of lockdowns, some children are seeing even less of the playground! Last year, the necessity of class ‘bubbles’ and a lack of outside space meant that providing every child with enough time to play outside was difficult. As schools return to a more ‘normal’ way of life, academic catch-up has become the main focus. As a result, playtimes are beginning to fall by the wayside to allow the regain of time for lost learning.

Since the mid-90’s break times have reduced for Key Stage 1 children by 45 minutes per week. This now means that eight out of ten children do not get the recommended one hour of physical activity each day.

What are the advantages of playtime?

Ask any teacher and they will know only too well the disadvantages of not having enough playtime. ‘Wet play’ are not good words to hear! An afternoon after wet play can be a difficult one. With no opportunity to release pent up energy and a limited chance to engage with friends, children can find concentrating a challenge. Classroom noise levels can rise and conflicts may occur when they usually would not.

But, what are the benefits of having enough playtime? A new campaign ‘Time To Play’, led by The British Psychological Society (BPS), lists the following:

  • Playtime offers ‘significant benefits to children’s wellbeing and is essential for their social development’
  • Play helps children develop skills in coping with challenge, facing uncertainty, being flexible and adapting to different circumstances
  • Playtime is an ‘opportunity to get physical exercise’
  • It is a ‘time to make friends and to develop important social skills’, these are skills that will not necessarily ‘be taught in formal lessons’

The Playtime Matters Report adds several other benefits to this list:

  • Playing outside can improve children’s eyesight
  • Playtimes allow children to become more resilient and have better self-worth
  • Adequate playtime means children are ready to learn when they go back into the classroom
  • Playing outside increases creativity
  • Playing outside means children are ‘more connected to the planet – and so are more likely to protect it’
  • Teachers report that adequate playtime ‘makes them happier too!’
The push for more playtime

In a recent letter to the Education Secretary, Time to Play expresses their belief that ‘the welfare of children must be at the heart of the Government’s recovery strategy’. With the spotlight set firmly on academic recovery, it is easy to neglect  school playtime to make space for additional formal learning. The group urges the government not to allow this to happen. They point to evidence, produced by psychologists, which demonstrates that school playtime is ‘an essential investment in children’s health and wellbeing’.

Parents support the group in their aim. A survey commissioned by the BPS found that 96% of parents thought that school playtime was a ‘very important’ part of the school day. 79% of these parents thought that play was ‘more important than or equally as important as academic catch-up for their children post-pandemic’.

Creating the perfect school playtime environments

At Playcubed we have been creating outstanding playgrounds for over 40 years. Over this time we have installed play spaces all over London and the South East, all used by thousands of children every school playtime. If you are looking to invest in a new play area and create an environment where children experience  the benefits of play, please get in touch today.

Speak to the play experts