Australian Primary School Playgrounds: Monuments to Misunderstanding?
In the eyes of the international community, the image of Australia is perhaps one of the “Lucky Country” where Aussie kids are afforded ample play opportunities in its wide, open spaces and natural settings.
Australian school playgrounds have historically played a central role in the makeup of community spaces that children utilise for their own play. However, like many OECD countries, Australia is currently experiencing a decline in free outdoor play. For some children, the school playground may be their only opportunity in the day to access free, self-directed play. This is occurring in a climate where an increasing number of Australian primary schools are finding playtime “breaks” problematic, requiring support from staff who are not necessarily trained in play and as a result, are now introducing reductive measures to deal with playground problems.
Since 2010, Australian not-for-profit Play for Life1 has been working with primary schools on the journey of understanding the broad and complex nature of children’s play and assisting them in developing a culture of playfulness at school. Through a series of play development interventions, teachers have been encouraged and supported to adopt a playwork approach to supporting the conditions for children’s play on their playgrounds.
The three year pilot of its flagship program, Creating Positive Playgrounds in Schools delivered impressive outcomes, including an increase in children’s motivation and engagement, increase in pleasure and enjoyment for both teachers and students and a reduction of yard incidents and accidents. However, one of the most significant changes was the practice of teachers in altering their approach to playground supervision and in turn, their
This paper explores the partnership between Play for Life and Australian teachers on their journey of creating more playful schools and richer play environments for kids.