From Small Beginnings, Come Great Things

PlayBoard: A Potted History

PlayBoard is the lead agency for the development and promotion of children and young people’s play in Northern Ireland. The agency works to improve the quality of children and young people’s lives through the provision of innovative services, all of which are designed to strengthen service delivery through information, support, training and tailored play provision. PlayBoard has come a long way since its formation in 1985. PlayBoard then was one of four UK national organisations set up under the auspices of the Association for Children’s Play and Recreation, a UK-wide group with responsibility for co-ordinating children’s play.

Based in Crescent Gardens Belfast, it was, in essence a small community-led organisation working primarily in the Greater Belfast area. In 1987, PlayBoard moved to premises in University Street, Belfast from where it launched itself as an independent, specialist play organisation in May 1990. Four more premises moves followed before the agency found its present home. In March 1991, PlayBoard moved to premises on Belfast’s Lisburn Road, in 1994 to Dargan Industrial Estate, in 1996 to York Street, and finally in 2010 to its current premises in Crescent Gardens.

Although the PlayBoard of the 21st century is many miles away from the original Association, it has remained true to its old aims and objectives. The aim of the Association for Children’s Play and Recreation was to encourage and promote the development of children through play and recreation. In addition, the Association’s objectives reflect the work of the current agency in that it set out to:

  • Promote facilities for play, recreation and other leisure time opportunities for children;

  • Carry out, encourage, commission and publish research into children’s play and recreation;

  • Provide an educational, advisory, information and promotional service for children’s play and recreation;

  • Provide a co-ordinating and development role for voluntary organisations concerned with children’s play and recreation.

Similarly, the original PlayBoard was also a membership organisation, with a structure called the Play Forum which was open to all affiliates who supported the agency’s objectives. Membership of the Play Forum was made up of individuals, local and national voluntary organisations and local and district councils, and they strived to influence the future development of children’s play and recreation.

Through its 35 year journey PlayBoard has been guided by various government policy developments and legislation – the UK ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child; the Children (NI) Order and the PlayCare Initiative to name but a few, but the agency has always remained true to its mission statement “Working for the child’s right to play”.

Looking back over the history of PlayBoard, it is apparent that many of the philosophical issues that originally gave rise to PlayBoard back in 1985, still remain today. PlayBoard, however, remain committed to campaign, lobby and raise awareness of the play and leisure needs of children and young people and to putting play on the agenda of policy makers and resource providers.

PlayBoard Timeline:

  • 2019:  PlayBoard commence delivery of cross-community outdoor play programmes in the Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon and Antrim and Newtownabbey Council areas funded under PEACE IV.

    PlayBoard establishes Youth at Play pilot project, working with EA Youth Service to enhance play opportunities for children within Youth Settings across the Belfast and Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon areas.

  • 2018:  On behalf of the Department of Education, PlayBoard develops and delivers two significant regional Play programmes.

    PlayShaper focuses on enhancing recognition of and support for play at Community Planning level by delivering seminars and providing support across 11 Community Planning Partnerships.

    Play for Parents delivers training seminars to statutory and voluntary sector practitioners who work with parents and is aimed at enhancing recognition of the importance of play and approaches to enhancing play in the home. Play seminars and sessions aimed at enhancing parental knowledge of play and play based approaches are also delivered.

  • 2017:  PlayBoard successfully develops a Play Strategy for Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon District Council leading to in excess of £4 million investment in fixed play areas across the council area.

    Four more Primary Schools secure the TOPS award in recognition of their work in enhancing play opportunities within the school estate – Termoncanice PS (Limavady), Rathcoole PS (Belfast), St Pauls PS (Belfast) and Holy Evangalist PS (Dunmurry).

  • 2016:  PlayBoard supports the development of an area based Play Strategy for the Newry, Mourne and Down District Council area leading to investment in excess of £3.5 million in play over five years and commences the delivery of community free-play sessions to broaden access to different play types.

    PlayBoard establishes the Taking Outdoor Play Seriously (TOPS) award for Primary Schools and awards Ballymacash PS in Lisburn the first ever TOPS award in recognition of its commitment to enhancing play within the school estate.

  • 2015:  PlayBoard develops its Play Value Audit tool to enable an assessment of fixed play area play value. The toolkit is successfully applied in a review of fixed play areas in Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council and becomes the central component of strategic development processes for play at local council level.

  • 2014:  Play and Leisure designated as the NI Executive’s 7th signature project under the Delivering Social Change agenda – project board established to drive the initiative.

  • 2013:  Junior Ministers McCann and Bell announce £1.6 m investment in play at PlayBoard’s Annual Conference.

  • 2012:  Minimum Standards for the registration and inspection of childcare services identify Playwork as the most appropriate qualification for School Age Childcare.

  • 2011:  NI Executive endorses a Play and Leisure Implementation plan for Northern Ireland.

  • 2010:  PlayBoard celebrates its 25th anniversary and moves to its current premises at Crescent Gardens, Belfast.

  • 2009:  NI Executive publishes its first ever Play and Leisure Policy Statement affirming a commitment to meeting the child’s right to play.

  • 2007:  PlayBoard’s Positive Playgrounds Programme is established, this project continues to grow and develop having been delivered to over 300 Primary Schools.

  • 2005 – 2006:  PlayBoard works with the Office of the First and deputy First Minister’s office to develop Northern Ireland’s first Play Policy – Consultation launched at PlayBoard’s Conference November 2006.

  • 2004 – 2006:  PlayBoard lobbies for the sustainability of Out of School Childcare.

  • 1999 – 2004:  NI Childcare Strategy entitled ‘Children First’ is launched and it identifies play based school age childcare as a priority “The aim is to have an out of school project available in every community”. Big Lottery (formally New Opportunities Fund) fund the development of 14,700 new School Age Childcare places.

  • 1995 – 2001:  PlayBoard play a role as an Intermediary Funding Body (IFB) for the dissemination of EU Special Support Programme for Peace and Reconciliation fund.

  • 1995:  PlayBoard led a successful lobby for a PlayCare initiative for Northern Ireland.

  • 1992:  PlayBoard establishes its independence as a NI charitable organisation.

  • 1990:  UK Government signs UNCRC, which is ratified in 1991 and comes into force on 15th January 1992.

  • 1990:  PlayBoard develops ‘Play without Frontiers’ a resource which seeks to address sectarianism through a playwork approach. PlayBoard build on the approach over the coming years through ‘Games not Names’, ‘Diversity in Play’ and more recently our ‘Spaces to Be’ programme.

  • 1985:  PlayBoard established as one of Four UK National Play Organisations.

PlayBoard continues to be an active key member of local, national and international networks, forging partnerships with colleague organisations, where we continually provide opportunities to share expertise, developments and gains in play for our members.

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