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Friday, 28 December, 2001, 00:02 GMT
Nursery outdoor play areas 'inadequate'
playground
The ATL says play is essential for a child's development
Young children in England are being denied sufficient access to outdoor playing facilities at nursery school, teachers say.

A survey by the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) claims a lack of suitable outdoor facilities in schools is hindering pupils' development.

wall
The union says children need to learn about taking risks through play
The union says that, in an age when parents worry about letting their children play outside and as lifestyles become increasingly passive, participation at school is even more important.

In a survey of 550 workers at the foundation stage (three- and four-year-olds) in England, 61% said use of the outdoor area was inadequate.

The ATL drew attention to the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority advice which suggests "well-planned play, both indoors and outdoors, is a key way in which young children learn with enjoyment and guidance".

Schools' role

Nansi Ellis, education adviser for the ATL, said in some primary schools with nurseries attached, three-year-olds were sent out to play with reception year children a year older, or even five and six year olds.

"In an age of high profile reports of abduction and 'stranger-danger', more children are kept indoors because of fears about safety," said Ms Ellis.

"Under these circumstances outdoor play in schools and early years settings is vital and may provide the only regular experience of the outdoors.

children using pc game
Children's lifestyles tend to be less active today
"Outdoor play is an integral part of children's learning and must remain a priority."

Playing outside also gave children opportunities to develop friendships and learn about physical health and safety, she said.

"As more children engage in sedentary and solitary pursuits, outdoor play enables children to be much freer than is possible indoors, allowing them to explore boundaries and take risks."

More money was needed to ensure primary schools and nurseries had the correct facilities and teachers had the necessary training to ensure children made the most of outdoor sessions, she said.

Review

The ATL is urging the government to conduct a review of the situation in the coming year.

A spokesman for the Department for Education said 4m had been allocated for outdoor play areas in 2001/2 in England.

"We recognise the importance of outdoor play and the government is putting in funding," he said.

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport was conducting a review of how best to spend lottery money on improving outdoor play areas in the next financial year, the spokesman added.

See also:

24 May 00 | Education
Playing fields still disappearing
08 Jun 99 | Education
Minister blocks playing field sales
02 Aug 01 | Education
Fears 'keep children indoors'
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