11. The settings which we visited showed the diversity
of buildings and facilities which exist for the education and
care of young children.
There is great disparity in provision. Some provision is in large
and spacious rooms with facilities which include access to the
outside play area. Other settings are in small areas with no indoor
space for vigorous play, or room to store adequately what minimal
equipment they possess. The quality of education and care does
not depend exclusively on the physical environment, but good practice
can be enhanced and become best practice with the right building
It was a very windy day and the children spent some time outdoors, running around. They watched the way the wind blew the leaves around and the sounds it made. Some children used musical instruments to recreate the sounds, while others moved like the blowing leaves. QCA Curriculum Guidance, page 126.
12. There is widespread concern nationally that children
and young people are having insufficient physical exercise. "Experts
in the fields of mental and physical health join the voices of
those in social services and education to alert policy makers
to the inadequacy of children's current physical experiences.
Children have a far more sedentary life-style than their predecessors".
It is essential that young children should have regular access
to outdoor play spaces which are equipped with appropriate and
challenging equipment. The National Association of Head Teachers
emphasised that physical development should be at the heart of
13. Young children need space, both indoors and out
to give opportunities for active physical play. This is vital
for children's health and well-being, and is an important part
of the child's all round pattern of development. Devon County
Council Curriculum Services argued that the principles and aims
of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (Article
31) could only be achieved if "the activities are flexible,
so that children can respond to them in a way that is conducive
to their individual learning patterns, and that the adults are
trained observers, so that they can recognise and respond to the
developmental needs of the children to maximise their learning
14. Access to the outdoors is more than a recreational
exercise; it offers activities planned to develop skills and confidence
across the whole curriculum. The Campaign for State Education
(CASE) "believes that all early years provision should include
welcoming and well maintained indoor and outdoor space with a
wide variety of materials and equipment to reflect cultural diversity,
provide a range of different experiences and meet the needs of
15. In our Report on School Meals, we placed
our recommendations on nutritional standards for school meals
in the context of an overall effort to promote a healthier nation.
We quoted evidence that young children were healthier in the 1950s
than in the 1990s, partly because children now spend less time
One positive development in encouraging school-age children to
take more exercise is the use of 'walking buses' to encourage
even the youngest children at primary school to walk under supervision
to and from school as an alternative to motor transport.
16. Children's intellectual development can be affected
if there is a lack of opportunity for physical development. Early
stated that "Concepts of relationships, literacy, numeracy,
and cause and effect all stem from practical bodily interactions
with the environment. Opportunities for active physical exercise
are thus an important part of the content of early education,
encouraging scientific skills of investigation, and expressive
17. The evidence from Montessori developed this thinking
further: "Outdoors, children are able to garden, collect
and identify leaves, label trees, study cloud formations, even
find geometric shapes in shadows ... going outside provides occasions
for new levels of responsibility and independence".
18. The Early Learning Goals, which have been warmly
received by practitioners,
are very clear on the importance of physical development in the
Early Years, and see its value beyond mere physical activity,
affecting the self esteem of young children which is crucial for
all learning. "Physical development in the foundation stage
is about improving skills of co-ordination, control, manipulation
and movement. Physical development has two other very important
aspects. It helps children gain confidence in what they can do
and enables them to feel the positive benefits of being healthy
and active. Effective physical development helps children develop
a positive sense of well being".
19. One part of the research carried out as part
of the Effective Provision of Pre-School Education (EPPE) Project
investigates the characteristics of pre-school environments which
include space and furnishings as well as other aspects of practice,
organisation and activities. Settings in which the best practice
was observed all had opportunities for play and learning outdoors
as well as indoors.
20. Members of the Sub-committee who visited a Forest
School in Denmark were very impressed by the emphasis placed on
learning in the outdoor environment. The children played outdoors
whatever the weather, and enjoyed picnics in the rain. Emphasis
was placed on learning through the natural environment.
21. Ms Lesley Staggs of the Qualifications and Curriculum
Authority told the Sub-committee that outdoor play was "threaded
throughout" the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority's
Curriculum Guidance document:
"Clearly what we have tried to do with the guidance is not
to be prescriptive ... because different settings can deal with
issues on different ways".
One example given in the Curriculum Guidance is of a childminder
who makes good use of a local leisure centre for large scale play.
Ms Zena Brabazon of the Local Authorities Early Years Co-ordinators
Network emphasised that safe areas for outdoor play were "absolutely
critical" for children to learn to have social relationships
as they grow up.
Ms Brabazon took Members of the Sub-committee round Early Years
settings in Haringey where covered outdoor areas were provided
for year-round outdoor play.
Progression from age three to the end of the foundation
||Examples of what children do
||What does the practitioner need to do?
|Move spontaneously within available space.
Respond to rhythm, music and story by means of gesture and movement.
|Sean heard a plane flying overhead and looked up to watch it. He put out his arms and moved around, making engine noises. He did this for several minutes before lying down. 'Now the plane has landed,' he said.
||Provide safe spaces, undertake risk assessment, create 'zones' for some activities, explain safety to both children and parents.|
Plan time for children to explore space available and their own potential for moving within it.
Give as much opportunity as possible for children to move freely between indoor and outdoor spaces.
Be alert to the safety of children, particularly those who might overstretch themselves.
Ensure children wear appropriate clothing while being sensitive to the requirements for modesty in some cultures and religions.
Talk to children and help them explore new ways of moving.
Offer a range of stimuli to generate movement, including music, songs, action rhymes and stories.
|Move freely with pleasure and confidence|
Move in a range of ways, such as slithering, shuffling, rolling, crawling, walking, running, jumping, skipping, sliding and hopping.
Use movement to express feelings.
Adjust speed or change direction to avoid obstacles.
Negotiate space successfully when playing racing and chasing games with other children
|A favourite tape was playing outside. The children moved enthusiastically, using their arms and legs and shaking their heads in time to the music.|
|Provide additional challenge and stimulus through access to a range of resources. Join in and make suggestions where appropriate, for example, 'Can we get from here to the wall without ¼?'
Provide safe mirrors as children experiment with and observe gesture and facial expressions.
Teach safety techniques such as getting onto the slide or picking up a bulky object.
Teach skills which will help children to keep themselves safe, for example responding rapidly to signals including visual signs and notes of music, role play with road layouts.
Introduce language of negotiation and cooperation, such as 'share', 'wait', 'take turns', 'before' and 'after'.
|Go backwards and sideways as well as forwards.|
Experiment with different ways of moving.
Initiate new combinations of movement and gesture in order to express and respond to feelings, ideas and experiences.
Jump off an object and land appropriately.
|Obi crossed the swinging bridge on the climbing frame. He enjoyed making it swing as he went across.
||Encourage children to move both individually and as part of a group.|
Use music of different kinds and from a variety of cultures with space, time, opportunity and encouragement to respond.
Encourage children to make a response to stories and rhymes with actions, such as 'The wheels on the bus.'
Teach and encourage children to use the vocabulary of movement such as 'gallop' and 'slither', of instruction such as 'follow', 'lead' and 'copy' and of feeling such as 'anger', 'excitement', 'anxiety' and 'affection'.
Provide props for children to hold that encourage and support their movement and dance.
Endorse success and offer challenges on an individual basis without comparing children's attainments.
Model safety consistently, for example tidiness and mats in place, and teach children how, for example, to approach things safely.
|Move with confidence,|
imagination and in safety
|A large group of children are 'Going on a bear hunt' and carry out the actions of the story outdoors, interpreting the different ways of moving and carefully avoiding bumping into each other.
||Talk with children about their actions and encourage them to explore different ways of representing ideas and actions as they move.|
Provide opportunities for children to repeat and change their actions so that they can think about, refine and improve them.
Source: Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, Curriculum
Guidance for the Foundation Stage, 2000, pages 104-105.
22. Ms Staggs acknowledged that for some settings
there would be resource implications in developing facilities
for outdoor play.
Ms Hodge recognised the need for more capital investment in the
She hoped that more Early Years settings, particularly in the
private and voluntary sectors, would be able to share outdoor
spaces by establishing pre-schools on the site of an existing
primary or secondary school.
23. The requirements of the Early Learning Goals
state that every child needs sufficient space outdoors
but this is not always available. We recommend that every setting
that is inspected by OFSTED should have such areas available to
the children. We recommend that if necessary the DfEE should make
specific grants to Early Years Development and Childcare Partnerships
to make this provision possible and should assist settings in
receipt of grant also to pursue other sources of funding, such
as the New Opportunities Fund.
24. We recommend that the funding of Early Years
Development and Childcare Partnerships should be increased to
enable children who have no opportunity for outdoor play, to have
safe and secure facilities regularly available to them so that
they can play and learn outdoors as well as indoors.
25. We recommend that Early Years Development
and Childcare Partnerships in relatively disadvantaged urban areas
should plan to provide a range of outdoor experiences appropriate
to the age of the children including, for example, visits to urban
farms, the countryside, woodland and the seaside, where the environment
is used by skilled practitioners to instruct, stimulate and expand
the imagination of children.