Welcome to the International Play Association – England branch

We are part of a global network dedicated to promoting the child’s right to play. Our work is guided by Article 31 of the United Nations Convention of the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). 

We run events, share good practice with our members, lobby, write and present papers and workshops. We also stay connected to the international network and share play updates from around the world.

Our constitution is available here NEW IPA England Constitution 2019-06.


News and updates

Annual General Meeting

Thanks to everyone who attended our AGM. We are pleased to welcome new members to our board and look forwards to an active year.

Thank you for being a member and we hope to see you in Glasgow at the IPA Triennial Conference.

The 22nd International Play Association Triennial World Conference in Glasgow 6th-9th June 2023

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The conference will examine how UN General Comment No 17 on article 31 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child has impacted policy and practice in Scotland, and worldwide, to improve children’s right to play and to create possibilities for the future. Click here for more information or to book 


Lady Allen of Hurtwood Trust – Annual Travel Awards 

The Lady Allen Trust is a small organisation, offering up to two grants of approximately £1,000 per year to play practitioners, who wish to travel to expand their knowledge, raise awareness and make new contacts. The aim of the award is to support and enhance an individual’s professional development in the play world with the aim of enhancing and improving their practice back in their own workplace.

The Trust is made up of Trustees from the International Playground Association (IPA), KIDS and OMEP (an international early-years organisation). Lady Allen had a key role in establishing all three organisations. There is an article on the life and work of Lady Allen on the IPA England website. The Lady Allen Trust was established in 1978.

The Trust does not support attendance at conferences, electives, or research.

The award is open to any playworker, regardless of setting within the UK.

The Trust meets three times a year at the Thomas Coram Foundation to conduct its business. The travel and work of the recipients must take place within nine months of the award being made.

A report of between 1500 to 2000 words is required after the completion of each project. This must be completed within the calendar year that the award is made.

The past two to three years have inevitably meant that it has not been possible to offer applicants a grant due to the travel restrictions that have existed both within the UK but also internationally. We hope that this situation has now eased so making it possible to offer awards over the coming months.

Adverts and calls for applications are not yet open for the 2024 awards

Applications will be considered over February and March 2024 for travel and projects during the year in question. If you are reading this, then do consider making an application.

The deadline for applications for the awards is the 31st of January 2024.

For further information on the trust, guidance notes, contact details and application forms you can go to. www.ladyallentrust.org.uk

Freedom to Play – a Children’s Rights issue

No Right to Play without the Freedom to Play!

A position statement from IPA England

Freedom to play means children are able to play as they choose and can access the space and time they need to do so. Children in England are however losing their freedom to play outside through a combination of traffic, decrease in playable open spaces, restrictions due to COVID-19, and a society which increasingly demonises children in the public realm. This has a damaging effect on children’s health and happiness as well as their right to play.

Article 31 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989), created a specific right for all children to engage in play (any behaviour, activity or process initiated, controlled and structured by children themselves)and it came into force in the UK in 1992.

For most children, freedom to play depends on having accessible space which fulfils four ‘location’ criteria (Wheway, 2015):

  • The space outside their home is safe enough for unaccompanied children to be on or to cross;
  • The distance from home to a playable space is no more than 50m (100m maximum);
  • Children can see and be seen from their home, or a trusted friend’s home;
  • The place is “where it’s at”. A place where people are coming and going.

Lack of freedom to play impinges on children’s right to play

For the vast majority of children in England, the only space which could become playable is the street or vehicular access just outside their home.

IPA England believes national and local governments should designate residential streets as priority for pedestrians. This would dramatically increase the percentage of children who have the freedom to play by creating thousands of hectares of playable space at little cost. This would be more effective than trying to create space in already built-up areas.

Adopted by Trustees on December 14, 2020


Wheway, R. (2015). Opportunities for free play. International Journal of Play, 4(3), 270-274. doi:10.1080/21594937.2015.1106048

Lady Allen of Hurtwood 

IPA England has close links with The Lady Allen Trust, and in these times of uncertainty we would like to remind all those who care about children’s right to play that the Play Sector has a past, full of exceptional people who have worked hard for our cause (some of whom are recipients of grants from the Trust), we have a present, which has become hard for many children, and we do have a future. These are all related. While many of us who work with children cannot now do so directly, we can still read and learn, so we have included a short piece on Lady Allen and the Trust. A link to their web site and grant information is also included.

Lady Allen of Hurtwood 1897-1976

Lady Allen of Hurtwood is remembered for her work around children’s rights throughout the world.

Her outstanding achievements lay in nursery education, The Curtiss Report after the Second World War which led to the Children’s Act 1948, her pioneering work in the early days of UNICEF and her work related to planning for play in urban areas. Her profession as a successful landscape architect, her childhood being brought up in the countryside and her passionate interest in the welfare of children led her to become one of the pioneers in introducing adventure playgrounds into this country.

Lady Allen’s approach wherever possible was both international and interdisciplinary. This led her to play a leading role in setting up the International Play Association (IPA) in 1961 and OMEP (Organisation Mondaile pour L’Education Prescolaire- an international early years based organisation) set up in the early 1950’s. Immediately post war she was a leading advocate for children’s rights as the United Nations was being established and became active in the establishment of UNICEF.

Lady Allen’s immediate post war experiences of travelling in Europe and watching children use bomb ruined areas as play sites inspired her to develop the idea of adventure playgrounds back here in the UK. Many inner city areas had suffered war damage- what better idea than clearing these sites and letting children loose to play on them!

As well as taking a lead role in setting up individual adventure playgrounds for example Lollard Street in London during the 1950’s and 1960’s she set up an organisation in the 1970’s that was then called the Handicapped Adventure Playground Association (HAPA). This organisation (now merged with KIDS) went on to set up 5 adventure playgrounds for children with additional needs as well as advising countless other organisations across the world on how to set up similar play opportunities.

On her death in 1976 three organisations that Lady Allen was instrumental in setting up the International Playground Association OMEP and HAPA established the Lady Allen of Hurtwood Memorial Trust to commemorate her work. The Trust has made awards each year since 1977 to people who are working in different play settings and who wish to travel to extend their knowledge and experience. The idea being that these experiences can be brought back to enhance the work currently carried out by the award winners.

For more information about the Trust please use the following link. ladyallentrust.org.uk

Lady Allen’s archives are kept at the University of Warwick where there are a good number of interesting historical records from the early days of the national and international adventure play movement and on the issue of children’s rights from across the globe.

Lady Allen also wrote many interesting and provoking articles about children’s rights and play during the 1950s and 1960’s. Given that a core part of IPA England’s work is related to international perspectives and experiences we are therefore proposing to use some of this material in future IPA England publications and for some online articles.

For almost thirty years after the end of the Second World War Lady Allen was at the heart of the movement that started to challenge attitudes and perceptions that society had towards children. She was an early play pioneer and a passionate advocate for children. She is someone whose work we should celebrate.

Research on children’s experiences of life during the Covid-19 pandemic

The study, by Dr Justin Spinney and Dr Matluba Khan of Cardiff University and Muntazar Monsur of Texas Tech University, aims to find out what kinds of activities children and young people have been doing during the pandemic and how they have adjusted to the huge changes brought on by the lockdown.

Children aged seven to 14 are being invited to complete a seven-day activity diary, as well as information on where they live and their family. The data will form part of an international study which includes four other countries – USA, Taiwan, Singapore and Bangladesh.

More information and a link to the survey is here.

IPA England calls for Covid-19 Clarity for Children

The International Play Association England branch (IPA England) is calling on the government to give consideration to children’s play and provide clear guidance for the public and professionals to follow. As the leading organisation for children’s right to play in England, we advocate that the government consider all children’s rights equally, but emphasise the importance of the child’s right to play, Article 31 (and the supporting General Comment 17) of the United Nation’s Convention on the Rights of the Child’s. This should be a priority for any post Covid-19 strategy to support children and young people to thrive during this traumatic period.

Children’s Rights have consistently been forgotten in the decision making process during the response to Covid-19. Where they have been considered it has been solely in the context of education and returning parents to work. Consideration needs to be given to children’s physical, social, emotional, and mental wellbeing within the context of their rights.

IPA England understands the magnitude of the challenge the government is facing post Covid-19. However there is a need for clarity about when we will see the opening of children’s outdoor play spaces, after school clubs, adventure playgrounds and youth facilities. We ask the government to consider the current research- albeit limited- regarding children’s role in the spread of the coronavirus, and to responsibly share this knowledge, in a clear and accessible way, with the public so they are able to make informed decisions regarding their children’s play outside. There should be a balanced approach to any guidance, weighing the risks to the spread and control of the virus, with the risks posed to children with the current lockdown conditions and the benefits of improving conditions for children to socialise and exercise together.

We urge the government not to follow some of the examples we have seen recently, where children have been expected to remain at their desks throughout the school day, or separated by painted lines on the playground. It is also important that children should be able to, where possible, return to the same class with their peers and consistent adults. Play should be at the top of the curriculum agenda for the foreseeable future, as it is through play that children overcome adversity, learn resilience and make sense of the world around them. This should be the case for all children regardless of age or stage of education.

Finally we ask the government to consider longer term plans for children and young people’s play, particularly with regard to the public realm. Traffic controls, pedestrianisation, promotion of independent mobility and street closures will all help to support children to play in public spaces. Further consideration should be given to play within the curriculum for children of all ages, and to space and time for children to play throughout the school day. Opportunities and the freedom to play, such as Play Ranging, Adventure Playgrounds, Holiday Playschemes, Play Streets and After School Clubs supported by qualified Playworkers should be consistently available as a service to support all children, particularly the most vulnerable, to overcome adverse experiences they have faced during the Covid-19 outbreak and to flourish.

A pdf version of this is here: IPA England Calls for COVID 19 Clarity

IPA World support for play during the pandemic

There is a heightened need to support children’s right to play at this time, so the International Play Association (IPA World) has developed the IPA Play in Crisis: Support for Parents and Carers resources.

Each page provides parents and carers with information and ideas so you can support your child’s play.  Topics include the importance of playing in times of crisis and how to respond to children’s play needs.  Also included are issues that may concern parents like children playing with difficult themes of loss, death and loneliness.It’s available both as a web page and downloadable pdf here.

Who we are – The International Play Association – England branch

We aim to uphold the right of all children and young people to time, freedom and space to play in their own way by:

  • Debating the philosophical and practical rationales for intervening in children’s play and the appropriateness and effectiveness of the various responses that have arisen from them in all relevant national and international areas
  • Advising and supporting the IPA International network and Board to effectively work to influence international bodies and agencies
  • Facilitating the international exchange of evidence and experience (for instance events, articles, papers, contribution to PlayRights magazine, website and supporting study visits)
  • Contributing to global consultation initiatives
  • Facilitating ‘cross-fertilisation’ between disciplines that have an interest or impact on children and young people’s play, environments for play and playwork
  • Setting up working groups as necessary to support activities in line with our aims