Clybiau Plant Cymru Kids’ Clubs has written to Directors of Education to urge them to utilise the benefits of freely led play opportunities in Out of School Childcare Clubs, when considering activities in the school holidays.
Clybiau Plant Cymru Kids’ Clubs wish to ensure that the rights and wellbeing of children and the survival of the Out of School Childcare Sector are considered within any discussions relating to provision for children during the Summer holiday of 2021.
We urge Welsh Government to consider supporting children and families to utilise CIW registered Out of School Childcare Clubs, where children can be with peers, leading their own play experiences and getting active in a fun, child-led way and, where specific academic programmes are deemed necessary, to ensure that they do not undermine established CIW registered Holiday Clubs. This will help children re-engage socially and physically as well as supporting the sector to survive, working/training families and economic regeneration. Working with Education departments, Head Teachers and School sites to ensure that children “catch-up” through freely led play will support the Out of School Childcare sector to revive and survive into the next school year.
Covid-19 has dramatically diminished children’s ability to exercise their right to play, their health and wellbeing. Restrictions have drastically curtailed play opportunities, including outdoor play and compensatory play opportunities within schools and childcare, with typical justifications for time spent outdoors being adult focused and led (International Play Association, 2020). The results of the ‘Coronavirus and Me’ survey, January 2021 (Children’s Commissioner for Wales) reflects this, showing a 14% reduction in play opportunities for 7-11 year olds and while children aged 3-7 were not asked this question 32% of respondents said they were sad with a common response that they were missing their friends.
To support children’s rights (UNCRC, notably Articles 31, 19, 24, 23, 12 and 13; and General Comment 17) and the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act, Care Inspectorate Wales (CIW) registered Out of School Childcare Clubs offer quality, safe, play-rich and child-led spaces facilitated by qualified Playworkers. The Out of School Childcare Sector has been particularly hard hit by Covid-19, with many not having yet re-opened following initial closure in March 2020, either due to access to venue or sustainability issues. As part of the foundational economy, Wales needs childcare, and its revival will be crucial in supporting economic regeneration.
Whilst we understand the importance of education for children, Covid-19 has had a number of negative implications for children in terms of mental health (with early data suggesting paediatric bed occupancy for mental health issues rising from 5% to 12% since before the Pandemic; Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health), a predicted rise in obesity as a result of decreased physical activity, a worrying decrease in Safeguarding referrals and delays in referrals for other medical problems (Dr David Tuthill, Consultant Paediatrician and Officer for Wales at the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health).
Professor Ann John (Professor of Public Health and Psychiatry, Swansea University, and Chair of National Advisory Group to Welsh Government on prevention of suicide and self-harm) suggested that instead of focusing on a need to catch up academically (which may serve to make children feel they have fallen behind and increase mental health issues, (a concern echoed by John McMullen in an article in the Guardian on 3rd March 2021), the focus should be on helping children to re-engage socially and physically. Out of School Childcare Clubs, where children can be with peers, leading their own play experiences and getting active in a fun, child-led way, can address this need.
Emotional wellbeing is essential to support academic achievement and there is growing evidence of the long-term negative impacts of play deprivation. Arguably therefore, supporting Out of School Childcare Clubs to open during the Summer holidays and provide high quality, compensatory play spaces to not only support children’s wellbeing but to allow parents/carers to work and the economy to recover, is of immense value.
To outline some of the many benefits of attending a quality Playwork provision; please see the case studies on the link below, one written by a member of my team from a parent’s perspective and the others written by the Owners of Out of School Childcare settings.
We would welcome the opportunity to meet with colleagues from Education, to explore the possibilities of collaborating and to promote the benefits of Out of School Childcare to Headteachers, parents and the wider community.
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