This week marked a milestone in the UK street play movement, with the publication of three new reports.
The first is an evaluation report by Bristol University [pdf link], published by Play England, which looked mainly at the health outcomes for children. The second is a report [pdf link] from Playing Out, the Bristol-based national hub for street play, of a survey of people directly involved in street play sessions. The third, written by me [pdf link] and also published by Play England, explores the issues around taking street play initiatives forward in disadvantaged areas.
This blog post from Playing Out gives a helpful overview of the three reports (as well as a flavour of the high level of press interest).
After my last blog post about German children having more everyday freedom than their English peers, Andrea – a German-born woman who now lives in the USA – got in touch to leave a comment. She had some revealing things to say about the differences between her home and adopted countries, and has agreed to let me share them more prominently. She paints a depressing picture of car-dependence and isolation: a stark comparison with her experiences in Germany. Here is her story.
New research from the Policy Studies Institute (PSI) shows that only a quarter of English primary school children are allowed to walk to school alone – yet in Germany, three quarters are. It is easy to think that the decline in children’s freedom to play out of doors and get around on their own is an inevitable side effect of modern life. That is why international comparisons are so valuable: they can show us how things might be different.
Last week I was tipped off about an intriguing job opportunity: a street play research officer. Which global city, you may wonder, is showing such a strong interest in this topic? Mumbai, perhaps? Nope. Rio de Janeiro? Wrong again. The answer is New York City. It’s just one sign that street play, often consigned to the black-and-white memories of baby-boomers, is enjoying something of a renaissance.
Today is Playday, the annual play celebration. I am going to take a step back from the festivals, the Council fun days and the PR campaigning, important though they are. Instead, I want to explore one of the reasons why so many children are losing out on the opportunity to play outside in the first place: the car.