A small but potentially significant win for risk benefit assessment

How often do you hear that the ‘health and safety culture’ cannot be resisted? That fear of litigation makes people unwilling to accept the slightest possibility of accidents or injuries? The implication is that risk benefit assessment (RBA) – the balanced approach to risk management that I and others have developed – is a waste of time.

My response – that RBA is making a difference, and that the legal benchmark is to be reasonable, not to eliminate all risk – is sometimes met with scepticism or cynicism. “That may be true in theory,” the argument goes. “But in practice, as soon as a child is hurt and a claim comes in, the lawyers and the insurers just pay out, no matter what the merits of the case.”

This is why I am pleased to share the news that the charity Hackney Play Association has successfully fought off a claim after a playground accident, and that RBA was crucial to the outcome. The details were released yesterday on the Play Safety Forum (PSF) website – see below.

An adventure playground in Hackney

An adventure playground in Hackney

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Making the case for more playful and child-friendly places

It is obvious that children’s play experiences and everyday freedoms are hugely shaped by the places where they live. So anyone who cares about these issues should also be concerned about the qualities of neighbourhoods, towns and cities, and about how they are planned, designed and built.

Child playing on pavement in residential area of Delft

Human habitats are changing fast. In particular, cities are growing and changing faster than ever before – and more and more children are growing up in cities. How should play advocates, and advocates for more child-friendly places, respond to these changes? This post tries to answer that question.

The post brings together some key strands of my thinking over the years on child-friendliness, outcomes and advocacy. It is a very lightly edited version of my response to a discussion on play and the environment that was initiated by the International Play Association (IPA), of which I am a member. You can find the IPA discussion paper here. Continue reading

Back to the future: how London’s new mayor can reconnect children with nature

So our new Mayor has made a public commitment that all children should have access to nature. The Government will also soon launch a new plan to restore nature and reconnect children to it. How might Mayor Khan fulfil this ambitious pledge so that London also leads on the Government strategy?

Sowing the seeds report front coverFor a blueprint, Sadiq need look no further than my 2011 Sowing the Seeds report, whose central vision strongly echoes his commitment. My goal in writing the report was to get beyond the warm words and (let’s be honest) at times nostalgic sentiment that tends to frame this topic.

Sowing the Seeds took a hard-nosed look at the evidence to show how spending time in nature enhances children’s physical and emotional well-being and learning, and fosters their concern for their environment.

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An alert and call for action – a new Standard threat to play provision | Bernard Spiegal

Traix 2015 playground surface test kitA swift reblog to add my voice to this call for action from my longtime collaborator, Bernard Spiegal. The immediate issue is a highly problematic proposal on surfacing from some of those involved in setting European standards for play equipment.

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This is an alert. An alert to all those – across Europe and wider – where European play equipment and surfacing standards are held, or will be held, to apply.   A new Standard is being …

Source: An alert and call for action – a new Standard threat to play provision | Bernard Spiegal

The R word: risk, uncertainty and the possibility of adverse outcomes in play

Let’s say that, like me, you are signed up to the idea that we’ve become too overprotective and anxious about children in their play. What language should we use to make the case for a better approach? In particular, does the word ‘risk’ – for instance, in the term ‘risky play’ – help or not?

Lunchtime at Beacon Rise Primary School

UK play advocate Adrian Voce – my successor at what became Play England – has questioned the use of the term ‘risk’. While recognising the progress that has been made on the place of risk in play, he says:

Although ‘risky’ and ‘adventurous’ are, in a sense, synonymous, the latter word has an unarguably more positive meaning. It also captures much better the essence of children at play – wanting to push the boundaries, test their limits and, sure, take some risks – but in the pursuit of fun and excitement, not the reckless endangerment that the term ‘risky play’ can evoke… ‘Risky’ cannot be the most appropriate word to describe the opportunities and environments we want to provide for them, or the practice we adopt in doing so.

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Show or tell: How should educators and playworkers back up their real-time decisions about risk?

This post explores how the real-time decisions of educators, playworkers and other staff who oversee children fit into the overall risk management process, and how they are held to account for those decisions. I have written it at the suggestion of the UK Play Safety Forum. The PSF would welcome comments on the position set out here – as would I.

Bayonne Nursery School Forest School session

Bayonne Nursery Forest School session

I will start with describing a real-life scenario from a Forest School session run by Bayonne Nursery a few years ago. (Those who have heard me talk on risk will recognise it from a video clip that I often show.) A group of four-year-old children are exploring an area of woodland. After clearing away fallen branches from around a large tree trunk that crosses over a dry ditch, three girls start to shimmy across. Two succeed, while the third becomes alarmed and gives up. Forest school-trained educators, present throughout, do not intervene at any point – not even to give encouragement or warnings. This is despite the fact that at points, things look like they might be getting challenging, uncomfortable or even slightly dangerous.

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Playground head injuries: what does recent research show?

Fox news screengrab playground concussionsA medical study [pdf link] has just been published that looks at hospital emergency department (ED) visits for concussions (or to use the clinical term, traumatic brain injuries or TBIs) to children arising from playground incidents in the USA.

My aim in this post is to give a summary of the study and to scrutinize some of its conclusions. I plan in a future post to discuss its wider implications.

The study used data from a national injury surveillance system to work out injury rates for each year between 2001 and 2013. It also looked at whether or not children were admitted to hospital and the playground equipment involved, amongst other factors, and it analysed the data for trends. It claims to be the first national study on playground-related TBIs since 1999.

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