How can we support children to play more in Leeds?
Monday 10th October was a pivotal moment for children’s play in Leeds. It saw the coming together of professions from across Leeds City Council and from wider organisations across the city – all working towards the same purpose: How can we support children to play more in Leeds?
Active Leeds and Fall Into Place led on a presentation of findings from the Leeds Play Sufficiency programme. The team had completed extensive research in schools, with parents and carers and with organisations working in local communities to find out about children’s lived experience of play. The work had been focused in some of the most socially deprived areas in Leeds. We have commissioned play consultants Ludicology to guide us on this journey. Ludicology provides advice, research and training to those working with or on behalf of children and their play.
Although research found that there were children who did have the freedom to play in the ways that they wanted, it also identified many factors that constrained children’s ability to play. A few of these included: cars and traffic; community safety and ASB; extra-curricular and further education commitments, such as homework; limited number of spaces suitable for age (particularly for teenagers).
Leeds Play Sufficiency is an ongoing process of research and action to assess, improve and protect children’s opportunities for play. The assessment stage explores what is working for who, where and why at a neighbourhood level. This means working together to understand the things that are supporting play as well as the constraining factors to play. It’s about cultivating the time, space and attitudes needed for children’s play to flourish, in their homes, on doorsteps and residential streets, within local neighbourhoods and local community practices.
There were two workshops delivered with representation from across the city: Child Friendly Leeds; Exec. Member Councillors with key portfolios; Highways; Parks and Countryside; Communities, Housing and Environment; Education; local community organisations – and many more.
Here was a room filled with energy, enthusiasm and commitment towards play. And this is really just the beginning of this work in Leeds: as a collective, we have strong foundations to work from to ensure that more children in Leeds are playing more of the time.
Leeds are leading the way on this pioneering approach: we will be the first place in England to work through a play sufficiency assessment. In 2012, the Welsh Government were the first country in the world to legislate specifically in support of children’s right to play introducing the Play Sufficiency Duty as part of their anti-poverty agenda. In 2019, Scotland followed by adopting the principles of play sufficiency into their planning laws. Perhaps Leeds will pave the way for England to follow?