According to outdoor learning and play charity Learning Through Landscapes, ‘precious outdoor’ space is being sacrificed to extend premises for providers to offer more two-year-old places, and plans to extend free childcare to 30 hours for working parents will inevitably add to pressure on places.
In an interview in this week’s Nursery World, Juno Hollyhock, chief executive of LTL, says, ‘We are concerned that the daily outdoor experiences enshrined in the EYFS may no longer be seen as a priority by early years settings, schools, policy makers and politicians.’
‘We hear whispers of wellington boot storage space being removed to make space for a new literacy corner, doors to the outside being closed rather than left open for children to flow in and out, and staff coming to work with no wet weather gear meaning that the children cannot be outside if it rains. We know from settings where precious outdoor play space has had to be sacrificed to build rooms for new childcare places.’
There are also reports that because of the need for many more primary school places, temporary classrooms are being built all over school grounds.
Ms Hollyhock adds, ‘We need to hear more about from the field about the realities of this situation.’
To find out the extent of the problem LTL and membership organisation the Early Childhood Forum are asking early years practitioners to take part in a snapshot survey.
Kathryn Solly of ECF adds, ‘We need the sector to work together to monitor the impact of policies on the ground and to ensure that the interests of young children are central to the way we model our education and childcare provision.
‘We are calling on all those working with and for young children to complete our State of the Nation survey, to help us get a clearer view of the impact of recent policy changes and where we need to influence change for the better.’
A DfE spokesperson said, 'Being able to play outside is an important part of every young child’s development. All early years settings must provide access to an outdoor play area or if that is not possible outdoor activities on a daily basis.'