A challenging year

On behalf of the Playwork Foundation Board of Trustees, we are writing to all our members with a brief overview of recent Playwork Foundation developments and some of our plans for the future. As we’re sure you will agree, it has been an incredibly challenging year with a very unexpected pandemic, several months of lock down, a very different kind of summer and a very different kind of return to school in September. The impact of government actions on children and young people has been enormous, as highlighted by this comment from one young person: “When will it be legal to have friends again?”. Children in secondary schools are now having to wear masks every day and children in primary schools are being restricted to “bubbles”.

However, despite a complete lack of focus and action by the UK Government on meeting the needs of children and young people, especially their fundamental need to play, the playwork sector has continued to provide invaluable services to children, families and communities. In England, this has been done, despite limited resources, despite the absence of a National Play and Playwork Strategy, despite a chronic lack of funding for a play and playwork infrastructure and for front line services and despite the practical challenges of delivering safe services during a pandemic. Playwork Foundation Trustees have heard incredible stories of the dedication and flexibility of playworkers in their attempts to respond to the play needs of children and families in their communities. You can read about some of these in this newsletter.


The Playwork Foundation did have various plans for 2020 that we have now  had to be shelve.  We had planned a number of free Playwork workshops around the UK. These were to include a participative session about the play cycle  in memory of both Perry Else and Gordon Sturrock followed by an interactive discussion about local playwork. We wanted to find out about  the issues facing playworkers, their support and training needs and any actions which we needed to take collectively to address these needs. We did manage to run the first one – a very well attended and lively workshop in Leicester at Goldhill Adventure Playground, but sadly we went into lockdown a fortnight later and all the other workshops had to be cancelled.

We were (and still are) planning a conference to explore  playwork and alternative education. A number of playgrounds have already been delivering  alternative education and with the rise in:

a)  numbers of excluded children,

b) disabled children awaiting a different school place and

c) home education,

the issue of alternative education and the role of playwork, clearly needs wider exploration and discussion.  We have been planning this conference – entitled ‘No Need to Exclude’ in partnership with Play Torbay and had hoped that this would be a face to face conference with visits to projects early next Spring.  However, rather than run this online, we have decided to wait and hold it later in the year when visits and presentations can all happen for real. Watch this space!


Lockdown did however give the opportunity for Playwork Foundation trustees to meet virtually more often and discuss more strategically how the playwork sector can survive and thrive during this pandemic and beyond. With the help of ex-trustee Penny Wilson  (who had already set up reflective zoom sessions for playworkers), we started a project called Playworkers in Progress.

The first reflective practice zoom session attracted a wide range of people in playwork wanting to make contact with other playworkers and to share experiences and ideas. The most recent Playwork in progress session was on Monday 20 November, with a lot of intriguing discussion about how different settings had adapted to the new COVID contemporary in response to infection prevention control measures.


Two of our trustees have been involved in the Playwork Trailblazer Apprenticeship group to ensure that there will still be a playwork apprenticeship that is relevant and up to date. This would initially be in England, but there is a possibility it could also be offered in Wales and Northern Ireland later. This has been a long and arduous process but the bid is finally being submitted to the Institute of Apprenticeships next month with a view to the apprenticeship rolling out early next year.  For more on this read the article in this newsletter.  We also have another trustee involved in the review of the Transitional Award in Playwork for Early Years and Childcare Workers. This was a popular qualification that transformed practice in many out of school clubs over a number of years and we are keen that it is updated and made available again. We continue to be committed to ensuring that there are relevant, high quality playwork training and qualifications available for playworkers working at all levels.

We had a successful zoom Annual General Meeting (in  May 2020) and have gained three more trustees since then which has increased our capacity considerably. However, we still aspire to having a paid member of staff to coordinate our activities and strengthen the voice of the Playwork sector.

To celebrate UK Parliament Week, 1-7 November 2020, Trustee Siôn Edwards met with his local Member of UK Parliament, Sarah Atherton, to talk about play and playwork.

“My role as an MP is to support all the children in Wrecsam and their right to play. My role is also to support playworkers, teachers and professionals who are supporting the children of Wrecsam, enabling them [to play]. More broadly, my role is to lobby to make sure the conditions are right for the playworkers to work and for the children to play.”

– Sarah Atherton, MP.

The interview is available in clips on our Facebook Page or you can watch the interview in full here.  Sarah has agreed to do what she can to champion children’s play, and the role of playworkers, in Westminster and we look forward to keeping members up-to-date of her progress.

The future

With regard to the future, we are currently working on a set of ideas and proposals to take to our members in the new year around how we can better fulfil our purpose of supporting Playwork and supporting Playworkers.  We are very conscious of the playwork sector’s need to stay in touch and support each other during these challenging times. But also of the need to plan for the future and to the “new normal”.  Here are just a few questions for our members for the time being – let us know what you think!

  • Do we need to revisit our Manifesto Asks in the light of COVID and an unsupportive UK Government?
  • How do we build the Playwork voice and movement, recruit more Playwork Foundation members and build on our foundations?
  • What should our priorities be over the next 3 years ensuring we are relevant to all parts of the UK and working within our current capacity?

We wish you all the best possible Christmas and all hope for a happier new year.

The Playwork Foundation

Playwork Foundation Trustees

Simon Rix      Ali Wood      Karen Benjamin      Simon Bazley      Jackie Boldon

Sion Edwards      Vicky Edwards      Tanny Stobart      Julia Sexton

Anne-Marie Mackin      Barbara McIlwrath


(Website and newsletter): Adrian Voce

If you have relevant news, stories, articles or opinion pieces to share with the playwork community please email adrian@playfulplanet.org.uk


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.