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The sun shining full on my face. That is my stand out number one feel good factor. That moment when you turn a corner, move from the shadows, come out of the door. It just makes me smile! So I just looked up what makes that feel good factor, and it seems there are all sorts of reasons. The vitamin D, serotonin production, the clear light, the warmth. It makes everything light up. And it helps me remember better, be more creative, feel more positive…

So why, WHY, why does Natural England report* that in an average month during 2013-15 only eight per cent of school-aged children (aged 6-15) in England visited the natural environment with their schools?? As in WENT OUTDOORS. Eight percent.

So 92% didn’t go outdoors to learn. Didn’t take advantage of the cheapest, most accessible boost to learning there is… the sun. This got me thinking. How many youth centres have really taken advantage of the sunny summer we’ve had to ensure all of the young people on their books are using local parks and green spaces? How many have checked to see if local adventure playgrounds are being made use of and that young people know their rights in terms of going off for adventures? Why are so many after school clubs INDOORS?? Why so very few forest kindergartens??

Fact is it is almost impossible to find out as most of the organisations that once surveyed such things have gone, but just reading this esteemed publication suggests simply not enough. Jim Burt of Natural England thinks – hopes! - we are at a turning point in terms of outdoor education… Certainly in Singapore, Finland, Denmark and many other countries with excellent rated systems we also see use of the outdoors promoted and supported. And not just for lessons. Children’s free time outdoors is also recognized as great too.**

This Thursday, October 6th, is Outdoor Classroom Day. Over 1000 schools  32 countries world-wide are signed up to celebrate their playtimes and take at least one lesson outdoors, inspired by the UK’s Empty Classroom Day last June. Project Dirt, the NGO I’ve been supporting to grow this campaign globally, is hoping that these schools will inspire a change in the way schools - and nurseries, youth services and after school settings – think about how they use the outdoors.

We are standing alongside many other NGOs from Australia, the US, Spain, Brazil, and global organisations such as the International Schools Grounds Alliance in wanting to inspire schools to get outdoors more!

We want to see policy change so EVERY school gets 90 minutes playtime a day. So that learning outdoors is part of every child’s every day. So that the outdoors is brought to life as an important part of every child’s world. So that they stand up in their communities to say that the outdoors should be valued every single day. So children have the freedom to play. So it is normal. Maybe it can start from simply celebrating how good the sun on their faces feels….

*https://naturalengland.blog.gov.uk/2016/07/21/busting-the-myths-on-outdoor-learning-in- schools/ **https://naturalengland.blog.gov.uk/2016/09/29/are-we-at-the-turning-point-for-outdoor- learning/

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Campaigns, Children's Play Policy Forum, education, health, housing, Play England, Play Scotland, Play Wales, Playboard Northern Ireland, Playday, playtime, policy, politicians, schools, streetplay, The Play Return -

Today is PLAYDAY!!!

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Today children and young people from across the UK will be taking part in community events to celebrate Playday – the national day for play. A report published in support of the campaign - The Play Return (pdf) - highlights the impact play can have, including the increase in physical activity rates for children where their schools and communities support play. TPlay Return Coverhis in turn leads to better results in education and improved health.

In particular free play in school break times, where children and teenagers are encouraged to do what they want to in their own free time, leads to greater physical activity than organised sport, and to better social skills and  academic outcomes.

This may seem self-evident - and indeed to many it is irrelevant, play is important in and of itself. But in a world of ever dwindling resources and competing demands, where the philosophical underpinnings of resource allocation is on 'merit', then some good hard facts come in handy. Especially in a world where children are regularly threatened with 'ASBOs' for playing football in the street or climbing trees.

Commissioned by the Children’s Play Policy Forum, the report is aimed at politicians and policy makers, and as a tool for campaigners in support of ensuring children have the time, space and opportunity to play outdoors. It was written following a round table last November, hosted by Play England, that brought together Nick Hurd - then Minister for Civil Society - and leaders from health, education, play, housing and the private sector. At the meeting Nick backed 100% the motion that Government should support play, supporting the strong statements made by representatives from organisations such as the Local Government Association, Wilmott Dixon and Public Health England. Author of the report, Tim Gill said
[caption id="attachment_666" align="alignright" width="158"]130812 Claudia Draper b Randal Cremer School Haggerston Credit: Hackney Playing Out[/caption] “Outdoor play impact(s) significantly on the lives of children and young people, it also in many cases can provide a basis for the transformation of wider communities. "From the perspective of politicians and policy makers, the report highlights that investing in play can, and does lead to multiple benefits including improved educational attainment, a healthier society and increased levels of tolerance within and between communities”.
As the former Director of Play England who organised that meeting with Nick Hurd, and now the founder of Outdoor People, I say to politicians and policy makers:
It makes no sense to close playgrounds, to reduce school playtimes or to put up 'No Ball Games' signs in a world where a fifth of 5 year olds are overweight or obese, where mental health issues amongst young people are massively on the rise, and where we have to raise a generation ready and willing to fight for the environment. Invest in outdoor play, and you invest in both the present and the future.
This year the Playday coordinating organisations across the UK challenge everyone to respond to the statement:

‘Play is…’

Outdoor People is responding by saying:IMG_3743
Play is health Play is happiness Play is hope 
And I ask you: what would the world be like if Play is...not? Now in its 27th year, Playday provides an opportunity for children, young people, parents and communities to come together to highlight and celebrate the positive impact play has on the everyday lives of children and young people. Outdoor People welcomes this report, and encourages everyone to use it where arguments are necessary. Where those in charge of making play happen - in schools, hospitals, housing estates and shopping areas, in parks and green spaces and in streets - need the case made. In Wales that means ensuring Play Wales secures futureIMG_3847 funding as well as continuing to support the play duty placed on every local authority. In Scotland and Northern Ireland it means lending more support to the Play Strategies that are protecting and encouraging local investment in play. And in England that means everyone pulling together to reinvest in the national strategic body for play, Play England, and communities everywhere fighting back against the encroaching ennui that sees traffic, academic results and 'elf'n'safety as insurmountable barriers, that encourages parents to feel guilty if their kids are playing out and that makes schools reduce the time and space children have to play. You can find a Playday celebration near you on the Playday website: http://playday.org.uk/playday-events/events-near-you.aspx And you can get involved in...

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