‘Open all hours’: researching access, play and adventure in school grounds (a collaboration between Play Wales, Cardiff Metropolitan University and local schools)

This paper explored the perceived benefits and challenges for all stakeholders in the piloting of an innovative ‘toolkit’ aimed at increasing the use of school grounds outside school hours for adventurous community play. Wales has taken a leading role in developing play policy and this research builds upon this tradition, providing insight into ways of supporting and developing community play opportunities for children. Across Wales, Play Sufficiency Assessments suggest that school grounds are substantially under-utilised (WG, 2014).The paper considers critical issues which include: practical realities of widening the use of school grounds beyond usual hours; perceptions of risk and adventure; children’s right to play; community participation and impact; and practical realities of the intervention.
This action research project was undertaken in collaboration with Play Wales and local schools. It adopted a critical realist epistemological stance within which children were positioned as active partners and powerful actors within their local communities. The ‘toolkit’ was piloted in three schools from mixed socio-economic backgrounds and qualitative data was gained through semi-structured interviews, focus group activities and secondary data generated through implementation of the ‘toolkit’ (e.g. play audits). Education Studies and Early Childhood Studies students received training and took part in the implementation of the intervention.
Evidence suggests that school grounds across Wales are substantially under-utilised, demonstrating the potential value for school play spaces to become absorbed into wider community life.