A coalition of organisations led by Learning through Landscapes is calling on headteachers to make 60 minutes of playtime the absolute minimum for every child on every school day. The charity says that a sufficient time to play outdoors as part of the school day is the single most important thing that schools can do to tackle the growing crisis of mental health issues in children and young people.
New survey findings show that 89 percent of teachers in the UK and Republic of Ireland (ROI) think that playing outdoors is important or extremely important for children’s overall wellbeing. Headteachers who have prioritised outdoor playtimes at their school agree.
However, although 65 percent of teachers surveyed say that children at their school should have more time to play outside, 25 percent reported that outdoor playtimes make up less than 10 percent of their normal school day. Most schools have the space for children to play outdoors – 88 percent in the UK and ROI have access to a hard surface for outdoor play and 84 percent have access to a garden, field or ‘green’ space. So, if the desire and the space are there what’s stopping schools prioritising outdoor playtimes?
Carley Sefton, CEO at Learning through Landscapes, said:
'There is a growing body of research that shows that time outdoors is beneficial for children’s mental health – and time and time again we hear this from teachers too.
Weather is often cited as a reason for keeping children indoors, but we believe that "There’s no such things as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing!"
Schools that have shelters, wellies, raincoats etc. don’t let weather get in the way of outdoor playtimes and the children reap the benefits. Whatever stops schools getting children outdoors, we believe that embedding a minimum time for outdoor playtimes in school policy is the first step to changing the culture and driving schools to find solutions to the perceived barriers they face.'
Photo credit: Malcolm Cochrane