Play in Practice during the Pandemic: Full ReportResearch Report
PlayBoard NI, Stranmillis University College and the Controlled Schools’ Support Council recently embarked on a collaborative research project to examine the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the quality of play within early years classrooms, as well as the impact on children’s engagement, social interaction and emotional well-being.
The research focused on Nursery and Foundation stage (Years 1 and 2 of primary schooling), with the online survey completed by 291 teachers between January and March 2021.
Over half of respondents (58.6%) felt that restrictions impacted negatively on children in terms of their social skills, their levels of independence, their ability to stay on task and overall enhanced anxiety. However, a sizeable minority (41.4%) indicated that children were more independent in terms of self-care routines, more settled in class, happier and more relaxed, and displayed increased levels of resilience and coping skills.
Over two thirds of teachers felt restrictions, alongside intense cleaning regimes, had impacted negatively on the quality of play, resulting in more sterile play and learning spaces.
The survey highlighted the high level of creativity, improvisation and dedication invested on the part of early years teachers to ensure that young children have, in the main, continued to enjoy a stimulating, playful and nurturing learning experience, despite the many challenges. Almost two thirds of respondents (65.7%) reported making greater use of the outdoors.
Key recommendations contained within the report are aimed at enhancing the capacity of settings to continue to provide a high-quality playful learning experience in practice. These include the following:
• Action 1: Need for greater value to be assigned to play in the home and support parents to develop and extend play within the home environment.
• Action 2: Need for further guidance on managing play during the pandemic.
• Action 3: Need to prioritise outdoor play and outdoor learning in the school environment post pandemic.
• Action 4: Need for professional development in the early years.
• Action 5: Need for further research into the impact of the Covid-19 crisis on children’s holistic learning and development.
• Action 6: Need to prioritise play more fully in practice across Northern Ireland schools and early years settings post pandemic.
A summary version of the report is also available here.