Wright, Fiona (2016) Caution Children Playing: Exploring the Attitudes and Perceptions of Head-Teachers relating to Physical Risky-Play in Four to Eight Year-olds in Three State Primary Schools in Northern England. Masters thesis, University of Huddersfield.

This study explores the attitudes of primary school Head-teachers with regard to physical risky play in four to eight-year-olds. Perceptions of the barriers to facilitating risky play within school were examined. Potential barriers to facilitating risky play within school were examined; particularly the relationship and balance between attitudes to risk-taking – including its benefits, and wider influences on school policy, culture and practice on risky play. A purposive sample of three state primary school Head-teachers, based in Northern England, contributed to the research. Data was collated via semi-structured qualitative interviews enhanced by photo-elicitation techniques. The findings indicate that the Head-teachers embrace risky play as a means of enriching learning as well as establishing positive learning dispositions and risk negotiating skills. In addition to scholastic benefits, the head-teachers regard risky play as a means of ensuring children’s personal, social and emotional development and wellbeing. Barriers to risky play are numerous and include wider cultural influences and risk aversion. However, increased curriculum demands and fear of Ofsted judgement appear to affect teaching practices and to limit time available for risky play within the school day. Familiarity with the benefits of play and an enabling approach when assessing risk appear to be significant in influencing risky play practices. Risky play is regarded positively by the participants, which prompts its inclusion in their school practice and ethos. Consequently, the influence of barriers to risky play was diminished. This study’s exploration of Head-teachers’ perceptions of risky play adds to the shared understanding of how risky play is perceived and how those insights affect primary school policy and decision making, with the intention of informing practice.

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