Early years providers struggle with lack of outdoor space, claims report

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A survey by Learning through Landscapes and the Early Childhood Forum found that many providers have insufficient space to provide high-quality learning for children outdoors and a small number of providers were not able to provide this entitlement at all.

It found that, although there is strong support for outdoor play, there is a wide discrepancy in what children are offered.

When participants in the survey were asked what prevents them from spending time outdoors, the following answers were given:

  • Health and safety concerns
  • Inadequate quality of resources
  • Negative parental attitudes
  • Lack of sufficient outdoor space
  • Lack of appropriate training and development
  • Education and care policies and regulation that take focus away from outdoors

The report calls for the Government and Ofsted to enhance the statutory requirement which states that ‘providers must provide access to an outdoor play area or, if that is not possible, ensure that outdoor activities are planned and taken on a daily basis.’

The increase in free childcare hours from 15 to 30 hours was one of the factors stated as likely to put pressure on outdoor space. Consequently, Learning through Landscapes and the Early Childhood Forum said they would lobby the Government to ensure any capital developments will not have a further impact on access to outdoor space.

Policy & Standards Manager at the Pre-school Learning Alliance, Melanie Pilcher, said, “We welcome this report and the attention it brings to the importance of outdoor play in early years education. Every child should have the opportunity to enjoy high quality and meaningful outdoor experiences, no matter what kind of setting they attend.

“It is unsurprising that some parents and practitioners have concerns over outside play, including bad weather, health and safety, and children getting dirty, so any resource that can be shared to increase their awareness of the value of learning outdoors is to be embraced.

“Although there is already a lot of high quality outdoor play and learning happening across the sector, there is undoubtedly a need to empower and encourage practitioners to make the best use of the outdoor areas that they have.”

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