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Child’s play – a new way

Did you know that play is one of childhood’s most vital skills? Play forms the essential foundation for the cognitive, physical, social and emotional wellbeing of all children.

With classrooms and playgrounds bustling once more, young learners have the chance to experience the benefits of playing together after a long time apart during the pandemic.

And, over the last year, teachers at the Professional Learning Academy, Early Years Team, Educational Psychology and two schools have been on a journey to develop play-based learning in the primary school.

The aim of the project was to strengthen the play pedagogy (the way in which we teach) across North Ayrshire.

Applying the principles of play and ensuring that the impactful approaches used in the Early Years setting are continued and extended into primary 1, the staff in the pilot were enlisted to support the transition to school and help their learners to continue to build on the existing skills they had acquired in the Early Years class.

The Play Pedagogy Pilot consisted of a series of virtual training sessions – delivered by Deirdre Grogan from Strathclyde University, school support visits and network opportunities where the team and pilot school staff have been able to learn all about the positive benefits of play.

The pilot is proving to be a great success

Sharon McDowell (Interim Senior Manager Education) was one of the 19 colleagues taking part. She shared: “The play pedagogy pilot has been fantastic for all involved and I feel very grateful to have been given the chance to take part.

“The new Play Pedagogy Development Team will now be responsible for sharing our expertise with other teachers and practitioners so that they can use the methodology to put each child participating at the centre of the play experience as we listen to their feedback and take their lead to actively respond to their unique learning needs.”

Joanne Goddard (Professional Learning Academy) led the working group, she commented: “The feedback from the training has been great and we’re already seeing the benefits in action.

“The play approach makes play experiences central to learning and this in turn gives pupils the confidence and flexibility they need to succeed.

“Children participating can enjoy the satisfaction that comes with an accomplished task and develop the skills needed to solve problems, bounce back from setbacks, and safely deal with risks.”

The next steps for the Play Pedagogy Team is to extend the approach across the authority.

Next session, there are 16 participating schools who are each on their own play pedagogy journey and will benefit from the inputs and networking across the year.

Prior to the new session in August, there will be an introductory session with representatives from Education Scotland. This will share the national message with schools across North Ayrshire and inform them of the pedagogy play programme ahead which will culminate in a showcase event in June 2023 to celebrate the progress made.

Look out in Staff Talk next year for an update on this…

The Play Pedagogy Team would like to say thank you to all the schools who helped to facilitate visits and engaged in the play pedagogy training over the last year.
Operational Lead, Fiona Wyper added: “The pilot has re-enforced just how valuable play experiences are to our young learners. Initial positive feedback from the pilot schools has included:

  • Strengthened child’s voice and confidence
  • Increased social interactions and opportunities to role-play
  • Positive collaboration via taking turns and cooperating with peers
  • Developing life skills such as tidying up, taking responsibility, problem solving
  • Improved sense of ambition and achievement
  • Reinforcement of School Values
  • Use of science experiments and technology to facilitate learning
  • More outdoor opportunities using recycled materials to improve sustainability awareness
  • Parents and guardians included in the process e.g. after play sessions, the pictures of the activities are shared with them via Seesaw platform
  • Most importantly, children are participating together again and having fun!”

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