If you love having fun with children and enjoy being active, this could be just the kind of job you're looking for. Playworkers plan, organise and take part in play and leisure activities for 4 to 16 year olds. They work at places like breakfast clubs, after school clubs, mobile play buses and holiday play schemes.
You don't need to have qualifications to start in playwork but some paid or voluntary experience will be useful.
To become a playworker, you will need to get on well with children, parents and carers. You will need patience and tolerance. You will also need a responsible and caring attitude.
• planning activities with the children
• providing play areas, materials and equipment
• giving children the freedom to spend their leisure time in their own way
• encouraging fair and caring behaviour among the children
• encouraging independence and self-esteem
• talking to children about their concerns or worries
• dealing with injuries and emergencies
• liaising with parents, carers, and sometimes other professionals
• keeping records and looking after petty cash.
You could be employed by local authorities, voluntary organisations or private companies. Although there are some full-time jobs, most are part-time. Some jobs are seasonal, for example in the school holidays. You may also be able to find work abroad, especially with holiday companies.
As an experienced playworker, you may become a community play leader or be able to progress to a supervisor or management job. You could also become self-employed and set up one or more after-school clubs. With appropriate qualifications, you could specialise in play training or play therapy.
You may be able to move into other related jobs like teaching assistant or youth worker.
Vacancies are advertised through local authorities, the press and online. You may find the following useful for vacancies and general reading:
• Love Outdoor Play
• Nursery World
• Children & Young People Now
You may not need any formal qualifications to start as a playworker but employers are likely to want to see some experience (paid or voluntary) of working with children or young people.
You could gain experience in a number of ways, for example by volunteering at an adventure playground group, primary school or holiday play scheme.
You could take a college course, to gain some of the skills and knowledge needed for this work, such as the Level 2 Award or Certificate in Playwork. A first aid certificate might also be useful. These courses are widely available at local college. Check with them for more details.
If you are already a qualified childcare worker with a qualification at level 3, you could take the Level 3 Award in Transition to Playwork, which has been developed to help support a switch from early years jobs like nursery work to playwork.
You will need to pass background checks by the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) before starting either voluntary or paid work. See the DBS website for more information.
• Disclosure and Barring Service
You may also be able to get into this career through an Apprenticeship scheme. You will need to check which schemes are available in your area. To find out more, visit the Apprenticeships website.
For more details about this career and qualifications, see the Playwork section of the SkillsActive website.
• SkillsActive - Playwork
Training and development
Once you have started work, your employer may encourage you to take further training and qualifications. These could include:
• Level 2 Award in Paediatric First Aid
• Level 2 Award/Certificate/Diploma in Playwork (aimed at assistants)
• Level 3 Certificate/Diploma in Playwork (aimed at more senior staff and playgroup leaders).
There is also a Level 4 Award and Certificate in Playwork, and Level 5 Diploma in Playwork for supervisors, managers and local authority playwork development officers. These are accredited by City & Guilds and CACHE. See their websites for more details.
As a qualified and experienced playworker, you could also work towards a foundation degree in playwork. This could lead on to a degree in related areas, such as early childhood studies or child development.
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.
Playworkers who work part-time or on a short-term basis, earn a portion of full-time rates (known as pro rata payment) or may be paid an hourly rate.