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The right to play and the right to learn

14th June 2021

The combination of noise about catch up/educational recovery strategies, and a summer of sport, needs further unpicking.  At best, the proposed recovery strategies for our young people are built upon the following three sound EEF principles and explained in further detail in the link below:

  • Whole-school approaches: support the quality of teaching, such as staff professional development; pupil assessment and feedback and transition support.
  • Targeted approaches: provide targeted academic support, such as tutoring; and other evidence-based intervention programmes.
  • Wider strategies: tackle non-academic barriers to success in school, such as attendance, behaviour and social and emotional support.

We support these principles and support our schools to develop these strategies within their contexts. At worst, however, our educational recovery is marred by the resignation of Kevan Collins, our education recovery commissioner, and centred around national tutoring programmes with a private provider and not enough student-focused resource.

I am not sure it has to be this way. Our tentative steps out of covid restrictions in schools has started to see less restrictions on children playing together.  Both in formalised teams, bands, and productions and, in the truest forms of ‘play’, in the playground, at the mud kitchen, playing ‘It’ on the grassy open spaces or even outdoor learning in the forest school.

As we sit and watch cricket test matches, football games as part of Euro 2020, tennis, the Olympics and a whole host of activities rearranged and backed up against each other this summer we witness the right of play to the human spirit. 

Human beings learn through play. At EYFS we cultivate and extend small world play to assist our children in their development and growth. Playing assists our own mental and physical heath, whilst also benefiting our social and moral interactions. We need to see a resurgence in learning play. The old fashioned distinction of education being rote learning, text book regurgitation is past - even though our outdated exam system seems predicated upon it!

Jack Mayhew, Executive Headteacher  Athena Schools Trust

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