Playworkers work with children and young people between four and sixteen years old to create an environment for freely chosen, self-directed play.
A playworker’s primary focus is to support and facilitate the play process. This involves knowing and understanding playwork theories and being able to implement them.
Playworkers may find themselves invited to join in activities such as:
· imaginative play
· drama and music
· outdoor activities
· creative activities
· listening to a child talk about their worries
The children who attend playwork settings come from all walks of life and will all have different abilities and personalities.
Playwork is needed before or after school, at weekends and during school holidays. There are some full-time jobs, but most are part time and some are seasonal. Playwork settings include play centres, youth clubs, adventure playgrounds and schools.
Full-time playworkers can earn between £12,000 and £20,000 a year. Managerial staff can earn between £25,000 and £30,000 a year.
· be able to build effective relationships with children, their parents and carers
· be good at listening to and interacting with children and young people
· understand the play needs of children and young people
· provide a stimulating but safe environment
· have a genuine interest in children’s play
Demand for playworkers is high and set to increase. Employers include local authorities, voluntary and charitable organisations, private sector companies, hospitals and holiday play schemes.
Most vacancies ask for experience of working with children, either paid or voluntary, and will require qualifications with a practical element, rather than purely academic qualifications. Most playworkers qualify by gaining nationally recognised vocational qualifications whilst working in a play setting.
There are also a number of higher education courses relating to playwork, including a foundation degree, degrees and certificates and diplomas of higher education.
Most playworkers are trained on the job by their employer and are expected to work towards one of several recognised qualifications in playwork, such as NVQs at Levels 2 and 3 or the Award, Certificate or Diploma in playwork offered by a range of awarding bodies.
Playworkers may progress to become play co-ordinators, supervisors or managers. Alternatively, they may move into playwork training, play development or play therapy. Some playworkers may become self-employed by setting up their own play centre, after-school club or playwork training provision.