On Thursday 10th March 2016 at the Cultra Manor, the biennial Four Nations Play Symposium was hosted by the Office of the First and deputy First Minister and supported by PlayBoard NI. This year marked the turn of Northern Ireland to host this significant and important event within the play sector’s calendar. In bringing together delegations from Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland, including senior officials with responsibility for play, the symposium lived up to its promise to stimulate much discussion, debate and dialogue and to shape the future direction of play policy and strategy across the four nations.

Junior Ministers Pengelly and McCann hosted the event, which was expertly chaired by Koulla Yiasouma, Northern Ireland Commissioner for Children and Young People and included input from Marguerite Hunter Blair (Play Scotland), Robin Sutcliffe (Children’s Play Policy Forum), Mike Greenaway (Play Wales), Nicola Butler (Play England) and Theresa Casey (IPA President), copies of presentations can be found below.

Junior Ministers Pengelly and McCann hosted the event with proceedings being chaired by Koulla Yiasouma, .

High on the agenda for the day was inequalities besetting play provision, the need for social action to ensure play is always central within the lives of children and young people, and the learning emerging from the Welsh Play Sufficiency Duty. Other key areas included the realisation of Article 31 of the UNCRC, allowing children to be able to play, particularly during the school day and how play contributes to children physical activity, their health and well-being.

A copy of the 4 Nations Play Symposium Report is available here:

Aims and Objectives

The overall aim of the symposium is to provide an opportunity for discussion, debate and dialogue in relation to the development and implementation of play policies and strategies that will benefit children in each of the 4 Nations.

The symposium brings together a range of influential play professionals from across each of the 4 nations alongside government ministers and senior officials with a remit for play with the objective of:

  • Sharing knowledge, learning and best practice in play and play provision;

  • Providing a forum for highlighting the progress being made or difficulties being faced within each nation with regards to play policy and delivery;

  • Discussing the crucial role of government-led play policies in promoting play in a consistent and fair manner that supports the wider social policy and strategic framework;
  • Providing a forum to enable play professionals and officials from government, with responsibility for social policy, to share and expand their understanding of play;

  • Providing an opportunity for professionals in each of the 4 nations to share experiences and learn from each other.