1 Curriculum frameworks and play
In many countries play is widely viewed as an effective way in which children learn, and most curriculum outlines or frameworks make some reference to play. There is reason to think, however, that the concerted focus on raising educational standards throughout the UK has resulted in an increased emphasis on adult-led learning and a loss of ground for play as a child-led learning process, particularly in the middle years of childhood (7–11 years).
A further aspect highlighted by Peter Blatchford (1998) in his study of school playtimes is that many primary schools in England have reduced the amount of time that children have to themselves for spontaneous play and socialising in playgrounds. Blatchford suggests that this reduction is designed to increase the amount of teaching time in classrooms, but it also reflects an ‘anti-break-time’ viewpoint from adults concerned about the behaviour problems that can arise.
As well as allowing children to learn those things that adults deem important, school, and specifically playtime, provides children with important opportunities to meet and develop relationships with each other. This social dimension of school is a very important part of the hidden curriculum.