Play Wise Partnerships
Children take the lead in deciding about their play needs and environments
The last 40 years have seen a catastrophic decline in play opportunities for children. Fair Play has shown elsewhere that much of this can be ascribed to the taking of up to 3/4 million acres of residential street space where they used to play - taken by the adult motorist, and the main culprit is the parked car. Also we have shown that there is about 1 acre of playground in England for about 700 children, and that to bring it even to 1 acre per 100, that would require around 80,000 acres of open land in the places where mostly they live. In the past few years, orgainsed children's play budgets have been hit harder than, e.g. main council expenditure or adult leisure.
In 1931, there were around 11 million children in England and Wales. The numbers peaked in the 1970s, now they are at 11 million again, and predicted to rise to over 13 million by 2025. Clearly, the children of today do not have the open space freely to play as their healthy development demands. With added factors such as parental wariness of allowing their children to wander too far, hostile neighbours (more common than reported), huge pressures from school, advertising, their peers, we are now seeing the problems that adult short-sightedness and, yes, selfish behaviour have brought.
The question Fair Play asks is: when did we ask our children about this loss of their play?
Our main observation is that, if we want our children to grow up believing their voices matter, we have to do so in the areas which matter most to them - and playing out, being with their friends, having space is one key area where we really can help them make the difference.
Not, please note, we do it for them. Fair Play has the simple, sensible and radical idea that children should be leading their play, not us. Our role as adultsb is to help this.
In its 2010 Manifesto, Fair Play proposed a series of ideas which would help put children back in charge of their play. Ideas such as petitions by residents to have streets made safe for play at key times will help, but what we seek is for children in every neighbourhood to be given the chance to create Nieghbourhood Play Partnerships, in which parents, communities, local groups, schools, councils, charities, businesses etc can help them work out and achieve their wishes.
We call this idea "Play Wise"
It is so simple an idea and one full of promise. It has also the virtue of being an earlyexercise in civic participation, where they can learn first-hand what is required in order to achieve a common goal. Until now, in the main, it has been parents and other adults or their organisations which have created opportunities for play, and we want to see that good tradition continue, but in the context of children taking the lead.
What could a Neighbourhood Play Partnership aim to achieve? Well, it doesn't have to be hugely challenging, it might be something very small, one day only - a street closure for a Fun Day, a Play Day in a local park, Street Olympics and Party. Or, workingb with parents, an Activity Week where a series of events etc are decided, adults say if they can help - a trip-outb one day, games in the park another, an afternoon of crafts, junk modelling .... All on a street basis.
It could, however, involve children and adults working with a designer on a garden, or improving a play area, or self-build playground aided by an expert, lobby the council (yes!) for facilities up to an including really impressive projects.
Play Wise can take an initial idea through a partnership and draw in the people and organisations who can help. That can be a community association, a church, a school, a council (parish especially), local business - not only small amounts of money but help in-kind - premises, materials, staff time etc.
In current times where money is restricted, Fair Play believes Play Wise is the way forward.
How Can It Start?
Parents and schools talking to children, asking them if they want to set up a Play Wise Partnership, canvassing neighbours, talking to local ward councillors, holding meetings in each other's homes, then a church hall, making sure the kids are there from the start, getting correspondence going in the local press, phone-ins on local radio, Facebook, twitter etc.
Draw in those who you feel can / should help such as police, councils, local groups, MPs, local business - WHOEVER IT TAKES!
We have guidance on local play partnerships: http://www.fairplayforchildren.org/pdf/1200483943.pdf
Fair Play also has an extensive list of links (see LH column above) of organisations, the local authority will have officers who can be drawn into a positive dialogue e.g. re street closures/restrictions, use of land and many other aspects.
Fair Play for Children will be very keen indeed to hear of PWP initiatives and interest. We have established a portal where we can be contacted and where children, parents and others can tell us what they feel their areas need:
Tell us your views and ideas here - click for form
Also, we have a growing network of PlayWise Coordinators, volunteers who are willing to be contacted, even to visit and help, and Fair Play is making the growth of PWPs a major aim not just for one Play Day a year, or even a year ahead, but long term.
To contact Fair Play re Play Wise: firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 0843-289 2638