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The purpose of schools is to educate children, and we know that head teachers and other school staff are very busy with this. Why would schools want to think about being a play-friendly school on top of everything else they have to do? We think there are lots of reasons, here we offer two:

  • the first is that governments who have ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child have a duty to recognise, respect and promote children’s right to play, and this includes in school;

  • the second is that a play-friendly school is one where children are more likely to be happy, settled, in good mental and physical health, and open to learning; in other words, making time and space for play in the school day helps rather than hinders children’s education.

Article 31 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child states that every child has the right to play. In April 2013, recognising that article 31 is often called ‘the forgotten right’, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child published a General Comment (GC17) giving guidance to governments on their responsibilities regarding article 31. The General Comment states that article 31 rights are...


fundamental to the quality of childhood, to children’s entitlement to optimum development, to the promotion of resilience, and to the realisation of other rights … Play and recreation are essential to the health and well-being of children and promote the development of creativity, imagination, self-confidence, self-efficacy, and physical, social cognitive and emotional strength and skills. They contribute to all aspects of learning. They are a form of participation in everyday life, and are of intrinsic value to the child, purely in terms of the enjoyment and pleasure they afford.[1]

In outlining governments’ responsibility for recognising, respecting and promoting article 31 rights, the General Comment specifically states that schools have a major role to play, including through the provision of outdoor and indoor spaces that afford opportunities for all forms of playing and for all children, and that the structure of the school day should allow sufficient time and space for play.


[1] UNCRC (2013) General Comment 17: The right of the child to rest, leisure, play, recreational activities, cultural life and the arts (Article 31), (p.4), available at:

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