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'Adulterated play': an empirical discussion surrounding adults' involvement with children's play in the primary school playground

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This paper, based on a qualitative, ethnographic study of three primary school playgrounds set in the North of England and the English Midlands, provides a critical analysis of the interaction between adults and children at playtime. The research catalogued the type of intervention between children and supervisors and assessed the impact (both positive and negative) that adult-led agendas had on children's school playtime activities. The discussion argues that those who are in charge of supervising playtime are taking an (often well-intentioned) interventionist approach towards the management of playtime activities, with the result that children's play at school is becoming a highly rationalised activity. The study revealed that in order to maintain discipline and establish a safe environment, underpinned by a desire for purposeful play and a need to avoid confrontation with parents and prescriptive agencies, adults marginalised and adults ended up marginalising and inhibiting children's play.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: April, 2014

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  • The Journal of Playwork Practice aims to advance playwork research and practice by providing the first ever interdisciplinary platform for the publication and dissemination of scholarship relevant to playwork practice. The Journal of Playwork Practice bridges the playwork theory-practice divide by facilitating practitioner access to research relevant to their practice, and enables researchers interested in 'playwork' to access a hitherto inaccessible field of practice and its literature.

    The Journal of Playwork Practice was published by Policy Press from 2014 to 2017, and will return with its new publisher as the International Journal of Playwork Practice in 2019. Further information is available at:

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