Should educators be ‘wrapping school playgrounds in cotton wool’ to encourage physical activity? Exploring primary and secondary students’ voices from the school playground
Hyndman, BP & Telford, A 2015, 'Should educators be ‘wrapping school playgrounds in cotton wool’ to encourage physical activity? Exploring primary and secondary students’ voices from the school playground', The Australian Journal of Teacher Education, vol. 40, no. 6.
Physical activity in school playgrounds has changed considerably over recent decades to reflect a climate of ‘surplus safety’. A growing culture of surplus safety can be attributed to a desire of parents and teachers responsible for children to protect school students from danger. The aim of this research was to examine students’ perceptions of playground safety influences on physical activity during school breaks from the perspectives of the ‘users’ of school playgrounds. Data collection consisted of seven focus groups (4 primary school & 3 secondary school) conducted across four schools (2 primary & 2 secondary). During this study, the focus group discussions consisted of 54 children (32 primary & 22 secondary; 50% females; 50% males). Social-Ecological Model levels of school playground safety influence identified by both primary and secondary school students included intrapersonal safety influences (risk taking, preventing boredom, misbehaviour); interpersonal safety influences (teacher responsibilities, teacher support, peer support, teacher intimidation and bullying/territorial issues); physical environment safety influences (surfacing, protection from the weather, safe structures, protective equipment, playground space, hydration, school security and passive smoking protection) and policy/organisational safety influences (designated play areas, playground rules, further supervision, maintenance). This research addresses an important gap in the literature by providing useful information for teacher educators of the multiple safety influences on students’ participation in playground physical activity.