Someone on Twitter commented recently that my events in schools seem to always revolve around play. It was not something I had spotted before, but it’s true.
The three school events I have been using in 2013 have been the Football Reading Game, the Rugby Reading Game and an event comparing making an Airfix kit aeroplane to writing a story and where we do both.
I use playing when I do school events because I am scared that if I just stand in front of 200 children and talk about myself and my books that I will be boring. I’m not that charismatic, so games and play help me keep things lively. To be honest.
So I was interested to hear about Play England’s campaigns to encourage children to play more. They have developed a charter for children’s play that takes on the barriers to children playing, often barriers in adults’ minds. Barriers like fear of injury, fear of so-called stranger danger and fear of upsetting the local community. Also barriers such as lack of space and time and supervision for children to play in.
Like most adults I remember playing all day outside without adults being too obvious. But not just at home. At school too
I work in a lot of schools, urban and rural. There are astonishing differences between the spaces children have to play in their schools. Some of the urban schools have car parks taking up most of the original playground and small or no playing fields.
Seeing that inspired me to write Secret FC, which is published by Barrington Stoke this week. Secret FC is about a schools where there is a tiny playground. The new head teacher’s first move is to ban football because he feels it is too dangerous to the school’s younger children in such a small place. He also has big issues with risk, after a friend of his had a terrible accident when he was a boy.
The children are devastated. They only have one place to play football in their neighbourhood. School. Now that is gone. So - with the spirit of creativity and problem-solving that children will never lose - they find a secret place in the small wooded area between some railway lines. And form the Secret Football Club.
In the end that spirit of the children wins the adults round and they reach a happy compromise with the adults. They use play to overcome barriers and anxieties. A bit like me using play to overcome my fear of boring children to death.