Children's Play

Department for Education written question – answered at on 26 April 2022.

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Photo of Steve McCabe Steve McCabe Labour, Birmingham, Selly Oak

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what assessment he has made of the potential merits of mandating that schools increase ringfenced time for pupils to play at school to support their cognitive, physical and emotional development.

Photo of Kim Leadbeater Kim Leadbeater Labour, Batley and Spen

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what assessment his Department has made of the potential merits of rolling out a minimum statutory playtime requirement for the school day.

Photo of Kim Leadbeater Kim Leadbeater Labour, Batley and Spen

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what assessment his Department has made of the potential merits of updating the Ofsted education inspection framework to include quality of play in school evaluations.

Photo of Kim Leadbeater Kim Leadbeater Labour, Batley and Spen

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, if he will add play to the ministerial responsibilities of the Children’s Minister in his Department.

Photo of Kim Leadbeater Kim Leadbeater Labour, Batley and Spen

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what assessment his Department has made of the importance of school play for children’s mental health and emotional development.

Photo of Will Quince Will Quince The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education

The department has not made a specific assessment related to play in schools, but the government is clear about the importance of play to children and young people.

The department recognises the important role lunchtime play and activities have in providing enriching activities which support children’s physical and mental health, as well as the development of skills and attitudes which promote their wellbeing. It can provide children with an opportunity to connect with peers, develop friendships, and be physically active, all of which may contribute to a range of outcomes including enjoyment of school, social development and learning.

The department considers supporting access to play as part of what nurseries, schools and colleges can do to support the mental wellbeing and physical, social and emotional development of children and young people. We work closely with the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and the Department of Health and Social Care counterparts on how that links into wider provision, opportunities and support for children and families.

We think it is right that decisions on how to structure a school day, including ensuring opportunities for children to engage in play, should be made by schools. However, as set out in the department’s recently published Schools White Paper, we have set a minimum expectation on the length of the school week of 32.5 hours for all mainstream state-funded schools. This will provide pupils with increased opportunities for learning, socialisation with peers and enrichment activities including chance to play.

Under Ofsted’s inspection framework, which took effect in September 2019, inspectors will look at how the curriculum is implemented through teaching and the wider experience of pupils in school. In the early years of education, Ofsted would expect play to be part of this. Inspectors would want to look at how the wide spectrum of play develops children’s communication skills, and demonstrates how behaviour is taught and managed, and how staff identity what a child needs to learn and how to learn it, either through explicit teaching or through play. When staff are clear on what children already know and can do, and what their next steps are, they can decide effectively on the teaching activities, including play, that will help children progress. Play should not, however, be evaluated separately, but as part of the curriculum, underling its role in supporting and embedding learning.

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