Many parents expect schools to take responsibility for their children’s health and well-being, according to UK primary school headteachers.

New research by Playforce, the UK’s leading educational play company, shows that eight in ten primary school headteachers (84 per cent) feel that some parents have largely absolved themselves of responsibility for the health of their children and have delegated that role to schools.  In fact, 44 per cent of primary school headteachers believe that schools bear the biggest responsibility of anyone for developing healthy children.

38 per cent of primary school headteachers polled say they have children in their school with health problems, 4 per cent of which say they have many children with health problems.  Headteachers’ biggest worry about child health in their school is the prevalence of screen-based leisure habits, with nearly nine in ten (89 per cent) citing the amount of time children spend on-screen to be a concern.  Inactive lifestyles at home are also a major worry for 80 per cent of headteachers – 23 per cent are greatly concerned.  72 per cent worry about the lack of opportunities for children to take part in active, outdoor play and 67 per cent are concerned about overweight children and obesity.

79 per cent say no matter how active or healthy children are in school time, many are not encouraged to be healthy or active at home.

Children themselves have mixed views on the advantages of being healthy, it seems.  While 96 per cent of 5-11 year olds surveyed by Playforce recently think it is important to be healthy and 86 per cent describe themselves as healthy, nearly one in ten (7.4 per cent) say they don’t have a healthy diet and 14 per cent say they don’t know if they eat healthily or not.  One in eight prefer playing indoors to outdoors.

When asked to predict the state of child health amongst their school community in five years’ time, a quarter (25 per cent) of primary school headteachers expect to see no change while a pessimistic 7 per cent expect the class of 2018 to be less healthy and active than the class of 2013.

Every single primary school headteacher surveyed this summer by Playforce agreed that children learn many essential skills by playing and learning outdoors and the vast majority (97 per cent) say outdoor play and learning plays an important role in developing healthy children.  Yet 15 per cent say improving their outdoor space or playground isn’t a priority and 10 per cent say Health and Safety concerns prevent them from using their outdoor space or playground as much as they would like.

Of the 500 primary school children polled, nearly a quarter (23 per cent) say they don’t use their playground in lesson time, three quarters (74 per cent) say they wished they had more lessons outside and 70 per cent wish they did more PE and sport outdoors.  More than a fifth of children (22%) say their playground doesn’t have fun or interesting facilities.

Dr. Colin MacAdam, Managing Director at Playforce, says: “The impact of poor diet, non-active and indoor lifestyles, screen-based leisure habits and lack of interaction with the outdoors is leaving a permanent scar on our children.  It is clear that if we are to improve this generation’s life expectancy, drastic action is needed now.  Active outdoor play has never had a more important contribution to make in our children’s lives and they need suitable environments in which to develop physically.  This requires government investment in high-quality spaces for outdoor learning and play.  If parents delegate responsibility for developing healthy, active children to schools, the humble school playground will need to undergo a transformation into a multi-purpose hub of inclusive physical activity, not just at break times but before and after the school day, in lesson times, and perhaps more controversially, outside of school hours, to ensure children become physically literate.”

The research results form part of the Healthy Children white paper which can be downloaded


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For further information, please contact:

Julie Parmenter, Elephant Creative

T: 01981 251820 / 07775 715936



Notes to editors:

PCP Market Research conducted the research on behalf of Playforce. They surveyed 100 Primary School Headteachers based in England over the telephone and also conducted an online survey with 502 parents with children aged 5 – 11 years. Interviews were conducted between 1st and 8th July 2013.

About Playforce

Established for nearly 15 years, Playforce is the UK’s leader in the design and creation of innovative, curriculum linked play environments for all children.

Built on a team of educational pedigree, the company prides itself on its creativity and confidence to design and install play settings that answer every school’s or early years setting’s needs.

Play is a key component of a child’s health, well-being and happiness. Making playtime fun is the core principle at Playforce; as a result of Playforce’s consultative approach, children are at the heart of each design for a truly personalised and engaging form of fun learning. Working extensively with early year’s settings, primary schools and local authorities across the UK, Playforce creates ‘well balanced’ playground designs that are unique, challenging, stimulating and most importantly, fun! The company has become a source of trusted advice for schools throughout the country.

For more information please visit