William Eichler 15 October 2015

We are living in an age of ‘battery-reared’ children, says report

We are living in an age of ‘battery-reared’ children who are being prevented from playing and exercising outside the home, according to a report from an all-party parliamentary group looking at childhood play.

And local authorities can play an important role in remedying this situation.

The parliamentary group, which was co-chaired by former Playschool presenter Baroness Floella Benjamin, argues that a child’s ‘license’ to play outside the home has been ‘drastically curtailed’ and that this is contributing to, among other things, rising levels of childhood obesity.

‘Today’s children are disappearing from public space—certainly in their primary school years,’ say the report’s authors. ‘This is the age of the ‘battery-reared child’ in which the play of children is being constrained and confined as never before.’

Shortly after the 2015 General Election, health secretary Jeremy Hunt announced the government’s intention to tackle the ‘home-grown’ obesity problem. An increase in opportunities for children to play more freely outside could, the report suggests, contribute to this aim.

Play, a report by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Fit and Healthy Childhood, outlines a number of factors that add to the curtailment of free play for children: a misplaced fear of strangers, concern about traffic, the development of technology e.g. games consoles, and a general shift in attitude towards children playing outside.

Some of the reports recommendations to tackle this problem include:

• Government to require local authorities to prepare children and young people’s plans including strategies to address overweight and obesity with its physical and mental/emotional consequences;
• Funding for play to be ring-fenced within local authority budgets;
• National audit of lost play provision since the year 2000 to include the impact of recent cuts to local authority budgets;
• Reinstatement of appropriate levels of play training as part of relevant professional qualifications;
• Play provision to be included as a grading factor in Ofsted inspections and Ofsted inspectors to receive training in play;
• Initiatives designed to enable older children to extend play up through the ages.

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