Published Thursday 7th November 2019

Technology has completely changed the way we do business. As a result, it has also transformed the way we educate. However, people across the UK are becoming increasingly aware of the importance of outdoor activities for young minds and the threats imposed by increasing technology opportunities. According to research by the Association of Play Industries (API) earlier this year, since 2014, over 300 playgrounds have closed across England. By 2020/21, there will have been a 44% decrease in spending on outdoor play areas in the UK since 2017/18.

The importance of physical activity in a child’s education has been widely reported and recognised. However, modern teaching is increasingly focused on the need for more technical and computer skills in the future workforce. As UK education transforms to reduce the skill gap, educators mustn’t lose sight of the importance of balance in school life.

Why Are There Fewer Playgrounds?

As the research by API points out, there has been a consistent decline in play areas in the UK over the last five years. Many factors have likely played a part, but the most frequently-cited concern is a lack of investment. According to API’s research, spending on playgrounds by local authorities will decrease by £25 million by 2021. Recent economic concerns surrounding Brexit and post-2008 austerity measures have seen outdoor spaces become unprioritised.

While capital is a notable factor, multiple secondary reasons could be impacting the decline in outdoor play spaces. Few countries have integrated technology into their lives as rapidly as the UK. E-commerce is a typical example of the country’s desire for convenience through technology, with the UK being one of the largest online shopping markets in the world. Meanwhile, the UK Government has consistently cited technology as a future domestic economy leader, especially for a post-Brexit Britain eager to compete with the world. As technology becomes ever more integrated, there is less desire from governments and children for outdoor spaces.

There are also concerns about increasing urbanisations, as open spaces are taken up by property or businesses. According to World Atlas, the United Kingdom ranks as one of the most urbanised countries in the world, while it is also one of the most densely populated. As with government financials, with an increasing demand for space in UK cities, the humble playground risks becoming an afterthought.

The Importance Of Activity in Education

While play areas are on the decline, there is increasing evidence pointing to its importance as part of a child’s development. NHS guidelines suggest all children between the ages of five and 18 should complete at least 60 minutes of physical exercise every day. According to them, this leads to “better general health, stronger bones and muscles, and higher levels of self-esteem.” The NHS also suggests reducing the time spent sitting down, including watching TV.

While these are necessities for a healthy childhood, many institutions have also drawn links between physical activity and its impact on education. A review of research on outdoor learning, conducted by the Field Studies Council in 2004, showed that “substantial evidence exists” linking outdoor education to improved classroom performance. Research also shows that outdoor learning can improve a child’s mental strength across a range of areas, including independence and confidence.

Unlocking Investment Capital for the Education Sector

Of course, much of this knowledge is already acted upon by a range of schools across the country. However, education providers, particularly for young children, will share API’s concerns about a steepening decline in outdoor play spaces. Some may be looking to provide such facilities on their grounds. Unfortunately, at a time when funding for schools is strained, it can be hard for institutions to find the necessary capital to invest in outdoor facilities.

Here at ERA, we’ve been helping UK education providers across the board unlock new capital by streamlining their supply chains. Our school cost reduction services are uniquely designed for the sector; we will only charge once our work has delivered results, and even then, you will only be charged from the money we saved. Our industry experts can reduce your expenses in a range of cost areas, so why not speak to our friendly team today?