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Should there be less play at school?

Should there be less play at school?

Alexis Ralphs Jan 27 • 7 min read
The evidence for more play is extensive. But are there disadvantages to a play-based approach?

How do you feel about five-year-olds spending most of the school-day playing? How about at six?

I'm certainly against testing for young children. But I'm not sure I have an answer to the play vs. work conundrum in UK schools.

Testing is wrong. More play is better. But do we really want our children still playing all day at 7, which is the model in some countries? Finland, for example, regularly tops league tables with this approach. It's a great way to learn, and it can even work with teenagers, but sometimes formal teaching is best.

Play-based learning is hard to organise. It requires a lot of skill on the teacher's part and backing from government that we don't currently have.

Maybe it's a failure of imagination on my part. Maybe I've become institutionalised by all those years working in the school system: I can't see another way of working. I love the idea of more play. But I look at my eldest son, who is now nearly six, and can't help thinking that he'd go out of his mind if he had to go back to the sand pit for another year. He loves reading, and stays up for hours after bedtime with a pile of books, feeding his fascination for Ancient Egypt, the Romans and the Greeks. Do I really want to take that away from him?

I'm presenting this in a provocatively binary way. There is some middle ground. I certainly don't want to remove play altogether. But is the trend for more play wholly positive? What do you think?

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