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Play strategy needed to protect children’s right to play

Western Australia urgently needs to develop a Statewide WA play strategy to safeguard young children’s right to play, according to Director of Early Childhood Education at Murdoch University Dr Sandra Hesterman.

Dr Hesterman warned that child-initiated play-based learning was disappearing from kindergarten/pre-primary classrooms and the school yard despite being central to healthy development and learning.

“Alarmingly there is evidence that the very word ‘play’ in early childhood education has become problematic.

“Play itself has become a contested activity in schools where sedentary and rote learning have taken a stronghold of the early years’ curriculum.

“In the field of early childhood education, international and national research shows comprehensively and conclusively that play-based learning has far reaching benefits.

“This includes inspiring creativity, fostering resilience and self-regulation, supporting the achievement of educational outcomes, as well as nurturing a child’s identity and wellbeing.”

Australia has a mandated Early Years Learning Framework to ensure the provision of high quality play–based learning. However, child-initiated and self-directed play has been marginalised to such an extent in WA that pre-service teachers have limited opportunity to see it in practice when completing their school practicums, Dr Hesterman said.

In response, the WA branch of Early Childhood Australia (ECA WA) and other key advocacy groups have launched a campaign to gain cross-community support for a strategy.

“The newly elected WA government has the opportunity to champion the development of the strategy in partnership with key stakeholders and ECA WA has met with the relevant Ministers to seek support for this initiative.”

Ideally the initiative would result in a government-lead play strategy similar to that set up in Scotland – one that safeguards a child’s right to play and ensures their voice is heard in all matters affecting them. This is particularly important because these rights are enshrined in the United Nation as Convention of the Child (1989).

Source: Murdoch University

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