Brilliant! Around 21 per cent of primary children's time is spent in the playground. Some pupils are bored, some are bullied, some play sociable games. Active Playtimes will surely help schools recruit more children to the latter. The pack of quick reference cards carries a synopsis of more than 50 games. Many are variations on "had", and chasing games that need little or no equipment.
Given a little knowledge, children can still get back to their innocent roots, playing Poison, Sharks or Snake in the Grass. Supervisors can easily gen up, join in and jolly along the jaded juveniles. The book reproduces each card, adds essential tips for choosing sides and rounds off with a baker's dozen of skipping games. The colour centre spread is an inspirational catalogue of playground markings to brighten the darkest asphalt heart.
The book also covers the serious issues of play. Down-to-earth analysis provides a framework for a constructive playground regime. The three key sections are environment, equipment and knowledge of games and activities.
In each section, the rationale homes in on explicit or intrinsic learning opportunities. The book includes practical advice from children and staff. Their helpful suggestions range from solving the mystery of vanishing equipment, to guidance on purchasing large, fixed equipment and safety surfaces. A short appendix provides a list of contacts and publications.
The ideas are practical and refreshing, and form a framework for good practice. When the playground looks like a battlefield, it could still be fine if you play your cards right.
Jon O'Connor is headteacher of Parkside Community School, Herts.