To highlight the impact of playwork approaches and loose parts play in schools with relevant data, we conducted research in each of the schools. The research used a range of methods both qualitative and quantitative involving 4 partner schools from all partner countries.
The research resulted in a collective policy paper in English, as well as a set of national-level publications.
Our research tools
The SOOP observation tool
This observation tool was adapted with permission from the System for Observing Outdoor Play (SOOP) tool used in the Sydney Playground Project. SOOP is based on systematic scans of children and their play within a pre-determined area. During a scan, observations are recorded manually on a data sheet with a visual map of the school playground. Numbers of children, weather and other relevant data are also recorded. Activity categories were: sedentary; socialising sedentary; playing sedentary; moving, not playing; imaginary/pretend/creative play; construction play; exploratory play; risky play; active play; games; sports. NGO partners attended a training session where they observed the same video of a school playtimes and compared their coding.
Separate questionnaires were used to gather information on teachers’ and parents’ views on their attitudes towards loose parts play, on the process and on any changes in children’s play they observed.
In addition, a general schools’ questionnaire was used to gather information about each school.
Play friendly schools criteria
This is a self-evaluation tool devised in a previous Erasmus+ project (Children’s Access to Play in Schools). Schools evaluate the extent to which they meet five quality criteria: the school has a leadership structure that supports children's play; the school has a written statement on how it supports play; children have sufficient time for play; children have sufficient space for playing; the school culture supports children's play.
Focus groups were carried out with teachers, pupils and parents, gathering their views on the changes following the introduction of loose parts play.
Cartography is about mapping the space(s) where children play, and the critical aspect of it is in the sharing and reflection on documentation. In this sense, this research tool is both a form of participatory action research (in that changes can be made in response to the processes of producing and sharing documentation) and a contribution to the qualitative data gathering for the impact evaluation and policy paper.
Two other tools, an adapted creativity test and a Social and Emotional Development Scale questionnaire, were originally included but were not used in the overall analysis due to challenges in reliably administering the tools.