The National Assembly for Wales election take places on 5 May 2016. We have taken the opportunity to ask the leaders of the four main political parties in Wales about their play memories and if elected, what their party will do to ensure that Wales continues to lead the way for children’s play.
First Minister for Wales Carwyn Jones – Welsh Labour
‘I know first hand just how important play is. Getting down on the floor and playing with your children is one of the great joys of life. Not only is it fun, it’s hugely important for a child’s happiness, well-being and development.
You really can’t overestimate the importance of play and I’m proud of what we’ve achieved in recent years. We’re making a real difference. Our Play Duty, for example, is increasing play opportunities for children and reinforcing the importance of play in children’s life.
I’m also happy with the Playing Field Measure, which ensures that before a local authority sells off a playing field they have to consult with the local community. Very important.
Wales is leading the way and it’s great to hear how highly regarded our policies are by the international community. But we’re not going to sit back and rest on our laurels. There’s still much to do. We will continue to take forward the agenda for play in Wales and lead the way in ensuring our children have good quality play experiences available to them.’
Andrew R. T. Davies AM – Welsh Conservatives
‘Growing up on a farm provided ample opportunity for fun and play, mostly revolving around the great outdoors. From riding bikes to climbing trees, the outdoors played a hugely important part of my childhood. While the actions of my brothers and I may have given my parents the occasional panic attack, the fun and freedom of the outdoors is unrivalled and provided memories which I still cherish to this day.
Welsh Conservative policies for young people would consist around the promotion and access to good facilities, whether that be leisure or using the natural environment, be it urban or rural. We would use the planning and educational systems to design and develop strong communal areas where the play needs of local communities are met through sport and recreation.’
Leanne Wood AM – Plaid Cymru
‘I grew up in a close community in Penygraig in the Rhondda. As children we had many choices of open, public land where we could play. I have many fond memories of playing up the mountain with my friends. We could be up the mountain in just a few minutes’ walk from our house. The mountain was freedom. We could do anything up there. We would climb trees, play hide and seek, build dens, pick wimberries, slide on trays and just generally have a good laugh. None of us wore a watch and only knew it was time to go home when it started to turn dark or when our bellies started rumbling. I’d often turn up at home with torn clothes, covered in dirt and on more than one occasion a fractured wrist!
Plaid Cymru supports the way in which children’s play has been incorporated into the Foundation Phase as a tool to aid learning of our youngest. Studies have shown that investing in a good quality education in the early years pays dividends later down the line in the academic career.
Maintaining the Foundation Phase and ensuring children carry on learning through play with proper supervision, staying fit and healthy in the process is therefore something which will continue to feature in our plans and policies. We are looking to see how we can expand and extend early years’ education which would follow the Foundation Phase’s principle of learning bilingually through play.’
Kirsty Williams AM – Welsh Liberal Democrats
‘I remember fondly playing on a rough patch of ground near our house with my brother and sister. There was a great big tree and a swing in it and we’d spend hours and hours having fun there.
I was pleased to join other Welsh Liberal Democrat AMs in supporting the Children and Families Measure which made great progress in the area of children’s play.
However, I think the time has come for Wales to be much more radical in the way that it approaches this issue. I have seen with great interest the impact of the Playing Out scheme, which first started in Bristol but has since spread across England and to Scotland. The scheme encourages local authorities to allow temporary closures of residential roads to provide a safe space for children to play outside.
The Welsh Lib Dems is currently considering how it can empower local communities and help councils put this excellent idea into practice. Of course, too often the barriers to accessing play stem from wider problems. Transport poverty, particularly prevalent in rural areas, is a significant barrier for children and young people from low-income families. The Welsh Lib Dems has a clear plan to improve public transport by creating new Passenger Transport Authorities, improving coverage in rural and poorer areas while widening access for young people in particular to travel to play opportunities.
Welsh Lib Dems believe that improving children’s play cannot be done in isolation, but must be considered as part of a wider co-ordinated economic strategy that lifts our nation out of poverty and improves opportunities for our younger generations. That is the ambitious approach that we would take in Government.’