If we were to say, “the forgotten part of the school day”, what do you think we’d be referring to?
You may have forgotten about it, don’t worry.
Or maybe do.
When put like this, it’s strange that it could ever be thought of as forgotten.
Then again, with the perceived behavioural issues that playtime can evoke and school’s having the autonomy to decide the structure of their day paired with the mounting pressures on schools to deliver extensive amounts of learning and prepare pupils for exams, maybe it’s not so surprising.
With this pressure weighing heavy on school shoulders, is it any wonder that break times have been getting shorter over the past two decades, resulting from the cutting of afternoon breaks and shortening of lunch breaks?
And yet, playtime is one of the most valued parts of the school day for pupils. It provides children with a key opportunity for physical activity, socialising and fresh air. What’s more, evidence supports the idea that breaktimes benefit classroom engagement and the improvement of learning as a result of physical activity.
The idea that children can get the exercise they need outside of school cannot be relied upon, shown by the marked shift from outdoor play to indoor screen time, a third of children doing less than 30 minutes of physical activity a day, a rise in the number of children leaving primary school obese and 1 in 8 children experiencing mental health problems.
Diminishing opportunities for children to be active along with increased time spent indoors as a result of safety concerns means, for many, school is their primary access to physical activity and playtime can make a considerable contribution to their daily exercise.
So, we know that playtime has the potential to achieve great things, but how can it be realised?
Well, surely children will just use their own initiative to play games with friends, organise activities and make the most of their free time, right?
But this isn’t always the case as revealed by schools’ general perception that pupils are not as constructive in their play as was once the case.
A risk adverse culture limits children’s creativity, echoed in children’s claims that, when it comes to breaktime, certain activities are banned and there can be an absence of things to do. Schools fear injury and with that fear comes the forbidding of activities deemed hazardous and the restricting of equipment, along with the ensue of children’s boredom
Hello boredom, hello behavioural issues.
For many it has been cutting children’s break and lunchtimes.
Though, rather than saying nothing can be done about behaviour, so let’s just reduce the time available for behavioural issues to arise, why not look at other solutions, i.e. providing children with activities to occupy their time.
Playtime has clear potential, but action needs to be taken to make it effective.
What is this action?
One is considering the role of playground supervisors.
Investigating the effects of games implemented by playground supervisors during playtime, a study found that children were significantly more active as a result.
Without the skills and confidence, however, playground supervisors are unlikely to attempt activity delivery. More often than not, supervisors are poorly trained and poorly supported which means little to no chance of developing the necessary skills and confidence.
Is it of any surprise then that in the majority of primary schools, staff supervise at a distance?
If we’ve any hope of supporting children lead a healthy lifestyle, we need to ensure those that have a real chance to contribute are equipped with the essential knowledge and skills; we need to support them, so they can support pupils.
And we have a way you can do just that.