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A Child’s Right to Play


In this week’s newsletter you will find a draft of a Wakefield School play policy.  You might ask ‘why do we need a policy on play, something that is as natural to a child as breathing?’  So here’s a bit of context.


The play policy comes out of The Great Outdoors Review, an exercise we’ve been involved in for the past few months that has two main purposes:


1.To consider how we can make the best use of our outdoors environment as a place for learning.  This purpose accepts that lots of learning already happens in our playgrounds and on the back field, on the decks and verandahs of our buildings, down the school bank and over into Faulkner Bush and further afield. We are making an effort to get more value from these spaces, for example by setting up gardens and the orchard, and we hope the review will raise many more ideas along these lines.


2.To consider how well we manage risk in our outdoor environment. We do this already through our normal policy review process but as we make more use of the outdoors for learning (for example, by sending groups of children into the community for tairongo time) we need to make sure we have strong policies and practices in place. 


Our review also coincides with the introduction of new legislation on health and safety in the workplace, which will have an impact on schools, just as it does on all other worksites.  The bill currently before parliament is causing a lot of concern in schools about the impact it will have on things like school camps and even the future of playgrounds.  See what some school leaders are saying here:


I tend to agree with Charles Oliver’s comment in this article, that if schools have robust policies and procedures we will be okay and shouldn’t overreact to the new legislation.  On the other hand the bill is clear that principals can be held personally liable for accidents and injuries, so I can understand my colleagues getting nervous.  I observed the same thing happening when I worked in England about 15 years ago where my school removed the children’s playground for this very reason.  At the time I boasted to my English colleagues that we would never become that over-regulated in New Zealand!  Hmm.


So, The Great Outdoors Review team (which includes parents, staff and Board members) has drafted a play policy that tries to say what we believe about children’s play and how we create an environment that manages risk and opportunity.  We want to know what you think of the policy.  What do you like about it?  What should be changed?  What is missing?  Please send your comments to me:, or to Anne Malham


And please put this in your calendar:  Parent Forum Wednesday 2 September 7.00 - 8.00pm in the staff room to discuss the play policy and other matters of The Great Outdoors Review.  Please come and have your say about your child in the great outdoors. 


I look forward to hearing your thoughts on these important matters.


Peter Verstappen



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Education Review Office

The latest ERO report for Wakefield School can be found here:




Policies and procedures for Wakefield School can be found here:

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