plā′wėrk′ings, n. Portions of play matters consideration; draft formations.

Posts tagged ‘legislation’

The door of perception (and splintered behaviour management)

‘Yet how could a man who had seen a rose as a coalescence of pure energy be expected to take his mortgage seriously?’

Ernest Scott (1973), The Start (Introduction to): Doing Your Own Being (Baba Ram Dass, formerly known as Dr. Richard Alpert).
Yesterday evening I attended a briefing on the new EYFS (Early Years Foundation Stage), which is expected to be delivered in settings from September 1, 2012. The EYFS still affects playworkers. It’s a legal requirement, a statutory framework, which must be implemented in settings that accept younger school age children. I write this text so far in a deliberately dry manner.

Some way through, we (being mostly made up of out of school setting staff) were directed towards page 23 of the statutory framework, as produced by the Department for Education – still dry, yes, but hold on . . .

Page 23, section 3.50 ‘Providers must have and implement a behaviour management policy and procedures. A named practitioner should be responsible for behaviour management in every setting.’

Just about here, the Ernest Scott quote I offer you at the start of this post came rising up in me. (Substitute ‘a rose’ with ‘play’ and read again?) I’d read the quote many years ago, and it’s stuck with me, but I couldn’t remember who wrote it or the exact context. It didn’t matter at the time. I did some digging around today (because an itch needs scratching) and found it buried in the introduction to a 1970 paper, a transcription of a talk, delivered in Topeka, Kansas by Dr. Richard Alpert, also known as Baba Ram Dass – a name given to him by a yoga teacher, presumably whilst on the self-discovery trail, in India. Alpert was one of the pioneers of LSD experimentation, along with Timothy Leary at Harvard.

EYFS to LSD. This post isn’t really about either. This is not a post condoning drug use, nor is it a post about the education of young children in the UK. This is a post about . . . well, let me put it this way:

Notebook, October:

In the canteen, the children are having lunch and my colleague is controlling things, subtly but too much for my liking. I feel uncomfortable with how she works, a small but significant repression of the children. When she goes on a break, almost straight away, I notice a slight rise in the children’s volume and a looser feel. Indy throws a wet paper towel in the air, slowly, en route to the bin.

Notebook, March:

Jody comes to club on a Monday for the first time. She seems determined to be ‘on top’. In the hall, she makes sure that her younger friends, Shaun and Riley, can play football as Vincent and the other older boys are buzzing around the space with pedal cars. Vincent gets in the way and Jody’s straight over, so Vincent backs off. He isn’t wary of anyone at club apart from her. Jody looks at me, as if she’s checking: maybe I’d have a go at her? But no. I just shrug. Inside, I’m amused by the dynamics. Jody and I seem to have an understanding that’s not ever been directly said in words.

Notebook, January:

I had decided to keep out of the space today so that I could observe from a little distance. I wanted to know if my presence was affecting the way the children interacted with each other and the team. I stayed in the kitchen. Whilst I wasn’t directly in the children’s space, I was able to communicate with them through the hatch. What happened wasn’t intended.

As children start bringing their plates up, as per the dictat of the leftover regime, I say thank you to every one of them. Soraya brings her plate up and puts her arms on the worktop and starts talking with me. She says that she likes the food, so I ask her: how much? I put my hands out by a short distance and ask: this much? Then I put them wider apart and say: this much? Then wider again. Soraya says: more, and that she likes the food further than I can put my hands out. She stays there at the hatch and we’re just chatting around. At some point, someone says behind her that she needs to sit down. Soraya turns around and says, sharply: ‘I’m having a conversation!’

Notebook, February:

Eddy is anxious again. He’s kicking off at the other children and the space is too small for him really. He needs out, I think. I think a lot of things all at once. The quickest route out is through the kitchen. No children in the kitchen. Right. Out the back, in the garden space, he’s red in the face and throwing things around. He pokes around and I really don’t know what will happen next at this point. It’s ‘think on my feet’ time. He’s shown before that he’s strong, and strong-willed. Eddy is poking around near the fire bowl. He finds big lumps of leftover charcoal pieces. I see the big roll of card that’s been sitting outside for a few days, under the eaves. I roll it out. Eddy’s still fretful and pacing, so we start throwing the charcoal down onto the rolled out card. The pieces smash. Eddy likes this. We smash more and he starts laughing. He gets his hands good and black and smears them over my t-shirt. We start more ‘art’ by drawing, or by drawing with the soles of our shoes, scrawling the charcoal along. Eddy’s not angry now. He just needed something, not some blanket ‘do this and this, now.’

Play, dear Ofsted, dear Department for Education, is more than dry words: much, much more. Play is astounding, beautiful, sublime, frightful . . . ineffable. Yet we try to describe. We try to see. We try. Play is not of the ‘Square World’ (thank you, Ernest Scott).

‘At all times, [there are] three separate humanities. The first contains those who live within the five senses and never suspect that further senses exist. The second contains those who suspect ‘something’ but for whom the ‘something’ remains a theory, a myth, an unease in the blood, plausible or implausible but never confirmed. The third contains those who know, not as theory but as experience.’ (Scott)

The ill-considered policy is an un-planed wedge at the base of the door of perception.


Is UK age discrimination against children legal?

During the course of my continuous professional development reading today, I’ve been looking through content related to the UK’s Equality Act 2010. As a very quick overview here, the Act brings together and replaces previous legislation on race relations, disability discrimination and sex discrimination. In theory, it’s intended that this will make the law in these areas simpler.

The Equality Act 2010 outlines nine ‘protected characteristics’ (or groups, of which we all belong to at least one). These characteristics are: age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex, and sexual orientation. As I was reading various information documents I began to think more on the characteristic of ‘age’.

It seems I’m not the only one to have thought about the question of age discrimination against children . . .

The Children’s Rights Alliance of England (CRAE) offer a very useful guide for children and young people (Making the most of the Equality Act 2010: a guide for children and young people in England). In this document, the CRAE state that the Equality Act 2010:

. . . only gives adults (over 18s) full legal protection from unlawful age discrimination. Children and young people are excluded from this new protection. However, you can still bring claims based on other characteristics such as disability, race, sex, etc. CRAE has been campaigning for many years to get under 18s protection from age discrimination.

At least CRAE are on the case. In 2009, before the Act received Royal Assent, CRAE produced a lobbying document called: Making the case: why children should be protected from age discrimination and how it can be done – proposals for the Equality Bill

My critique of this document is that, whilst it pays due attention to teenagers, babies and young children, there’s not enough regard to the societal needs of children in the 4-11 age bracket. That said, it does make for interesting reading. As an overview here, it investigates age discrimination of children and young people in terms of access to goods, facilities and services. It states, regarding the then upcoming Equality Act (p.4):

The UK Government proposes to extend age discrimination protection beyond the workplace, to cover the provision of goods, facilities and services.

The document looks at children and young people’s access to healthcare, child protection, justice, public leisure services, shops and restaurants, and public transport.

As I read I began making links with my recent observations of adults’ attitudes to children in Sweden, in places such as public transport.

On their main website, CRAE highlight:

April 2010 – Equality Act receives Royal Assent but excludes under-18s from age discrimination protection.

The Equality Act 2010 received Royal Assent on 8 April 2010. The Act, which brings together all existing discrimination legislation and extends protection from unfair treatment, explicitly excludes children and young people from legal protection from unfair discrimination on the grounds of age.

Why do we, in the UK, continue to treat our children with such disregard? Here are some interesting quotes from the Making the Case document:

‘The provisions will not cover people under 18. It is right to treat children and young people differently, for example through age limits on alcohol consumption, and there is little evidence of harmful age discrimination against young people.’

Harriet Harman, [then] Minister for Women and Equality, statement in the House of Commons, 26 June 2008.

Really, former Minister for Women and Equality?

The Australian Age Discrimination Act 2004 outlaws age discrimination in a range of areas beyond employment, including education, housing, goods, facilities and services. Children are explicitly included in this protection.

Australian Age Discrimination Act 2004, Section 33.

‘My local council have just made an allotment rule that requires children under the age of 16 to be accompanied by an adult at all times. There are tenants who’s [sic] children go to the allotment on their own to collect eggs and even to cultivate the plot. These children will now be prohibited from doing this. Are the council able to discriminate against children in this manner?’

Adult e-mail to CRAE advice line (18 December 2008).

‘If the Prime Minister lived my life for a week, he would find that he is constantly victimised just for being a young person . . . He would find that instead of being able to go where he wants, when he wants, that he is restricted by signs saying ‘no more than one child at any time’. At this point he’d think to himself, if that sign said ‘no more than one gay at any time’ or ‘no more than one old person at any time’, that it would be against the law.’

17 year old, Children’s Rights Alliance for England (2007). Online survey, Get Ready for Change

On their website, CRAE’s timeline of action posting for February 2010 (in the last throes of the former Labour Government) states:

The Government has said that it is ‘firmly committed to eradicating age discrimination wherever it arises. No-one should be treated badly just because of their age.’ Yet, in a recent speech, Harriet Harman, the Minister for Equality and Women claimed that ‘. . . older people are the last remaining group that society deems it acceptable to discriminate against.’ Young Equals [co-ordinated by CRAE] believes that such a statement undermines the legitimacy of children and young people’s experiences and reinforces the idea that they do not experience age discrimination. This is not the case and we call on the Government to amend the Equality Bill in order to extend legal protection from unfair discrimination on the grounds of age to children and young people.

This blog posting of mine is not an indication of my political persuasion. The current Coalition Government must take responsibility. I have no further comment on the question posed in the title of this blog piece: I think the CRAE have made a good case and I’d just like to bring it to your attentions, my fellow play and playwork colleagues.

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