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"Can I Go and Play Now?"- Greg Bottrill - BOOK LAUNCH

Dr. Huan Chen, London

Early Years International Association

2021 . 1. 21




// Author's Profile

Greg Bottrill is an influential education professional in the UK. His teaching experience is rich and he is passionate about studying children's play, childhood 'magic', and child-centred learning.





// First Encounter

I stumbled across the book "Can I Go And Play Now" which introduced me to Greg, Children, Play and Education over two years ago, whilst I was collecting data for my PhD thesis at University College London. The book's title appealed to me instant - few people take children's words directly as titles, making me consider how such author must have children and childhood in the forefront of their mind.

It wasn't until later in the years I was given the honour of becoming the translator of this book, providing me with further opportunity to understand how Greg's words are imbued with power, connecting deep into the soul of the reader. To convey this power, the publisher and I spent a very long time in several rounds of discussion and deliberation, working closely with Greg himself to gain the beautiful interpretation and translation. I really hope the final version will enable you to feel the pure heartfelt message both within, and between the lines.

I finally met Greg in this restaurant on October 30, 2020. The small building, close by to Greg's home, was as magical and enticing as Greg himself

// Let us talk about the book

Educators are often crowned "soul engineers", but it seems to belong only to those high-gloss moments. Before returning to work in education, it has become expected for educators to cast their heart and soul out of the way, placing these attributes onto the top shelf, to then immerse themselves in creating elaborate plans for teaching children specific knowledge and skills.

Some educators have never valued or can simply not remember the value of play throughout their own childhood.Many educators are struggling in best efforts, work extremely hard to live up to the expectations, performance evaluations and perceptions once underrating the role of a teacher. For many people, they perhaps have forgotten what and who they were, before they were disciplined by the adult world. This is the exact essence of 'magic and beauty' we as educators must protect within childhood, caring for the light in every child's eyes.

Greg's book caused a huge deal of excitement when it was first published in the UK, with many educators listing it as 'essential reading'. It is an unsparing critique of how the adult world has made education boring and pale. This book makes for delightful inspiring reading especially for any educators or teachers who already feel lost, deprecated or confused within their role.

However, if you want to find serious rational in this book, I'm sorry I must first dash your hopes. This book is not a mediation on theory, but a 'song' about play. You need to forget for a moment that theory and laws of early education, any education; forget those cold numbers, statistics and logic perfecting teaching plans. Be ready to open this book to begin a journey 'backwards', rediscovering the magic and joy.

Go back to where your early education began, and where your journey into life began. There you will meet yourself, someone who is still curious about everything when the world is new. You may even realise that education itself doesn't need to stand on the opposite podium of childhood. It turns out that their really is a white dragon horse that every child can ride into the realm of knowledge.

The white dragon horse's name is PLAY, and you can only approach it if you have permission from a child.

In particular, Greg spends much of the book discussing the 3M strategy, they refer retrospectively to: Making connection, Markmaking and Mathematics.

This theory is based on "Children do not, and can not, learn effectively in a linear manner". The idea is to use play to achieve the teaching goals of the adult world without destroying the freedom and pleasure of children's play. With the 3Ms you do not have to rely on the weekly or monthly plans, but you can promote your children's development with a more relaxed attitude as a "co-adventurer" in their play.

// Note

Easy to remember and meeting the demands of the Adult World through the magic of play-based learning, the 3Ms put children's next steps in the key areas of childhood development into focus as we enter their world of play. A great model for team training and simple to explain to school leaders, the 3Ms has the ability to radically improve outcomes whilst at the same time giving children a joyful and enriching experience day in day out...

This note is from Greg's website:


Whilst reading I suggest you put aside your beloved notebook. Believe me, Greg has written so many heartfelt sentences that you will end up writing down the same phrases several times amongst your excitement. Just by reading what is written and thinking about these infactuating words the essence of the book will become part of your educational perspective ideals.

Of course, you may think this ideal may be far from us, wherever you stand in the world today; but as Greg would say, "education requires teachers with an inner desire for educational intelligence", we all can achieve this by "being the best we can be". If you want to be wise and find the best you can be, the words in this book will not fail to inspire and lead such path.



By understanding the policy structure and focus issues of contemporary early education in England, it may help you further understand this book.

//Overview of Early Education England

In England, care and education for children aged 0-5 is known as the Early Years Foundation Stage. It is also translated as the 'primary stage', but I think 'foundation stage' can be distinguished from 'basic education' to highlight the importance of early education as the foundations of 'primary education'. This analogy was introduced as an exclusive term for early education in England within the 2005 Childcare Act.

The Early Years Foundations Stage education is provided in a marketed manner by various types of organisations and institutions including;

- Childminder (an educator who cares for infants and children 0-8years within their home)

- Day nursery (a private nursery for infants and toddlers aged 0-8years)

- Nursery school (independent, public schools for children aged 2-4years)

- Nursery classes attached to primary schools ( for children aged 2-4years)

- Reception classes (preschool education within a primary school aged 4-5years)

All types of institutions are subject to Ofsted, (Office for Standards in the Education Department, Children's Services and Skills) who by law, publicly assess and grade provisions, on result of supervision and inspection under four categories; Outstanding, Good, Requires Improvement and Inadequate. Parents hold free choice to determine their child's educational pathways. With some families being eligible for government funding from 15-30 hours for children aged 2-4years.

The statutory framework of the Early Years Foundation Stage is a working document for all early years educators in England. The framework lays down the basic principals, curriculum framework, and specific requirements for practitioners from three aspects; 'children's learning and development', 'assessment of children' & 'safeguarding and welfare of children'. The Development Matters is a non-statutory guide to support the statutory framework, which identifies the developmental goals that children are expected to achieve (age and area specific), and outlines how the environment and teachers support children in achieving this.


Sample taken from the Statutory Framework of the EYFS, 2017


// Balance between performance and play

There has been no let-up in criticism and debate since the framework was first published.

The main point of deliberation is that children's learning and development has been interpreted as a "checklist", a series of goals that children 'should' achieve, whilst teachers are busy observing, evaluating and recording what children are achieving. In addition, the academic orientation of the checklist principles, and some forms of inappropriate teaching methodology has led to criticisms of "preparing children for school" rathe than "preparing schools for children".

Although the English Government have repeatedly highlighted that child assessment is only to grasp the current attainment level of the child, to clarify the 'starting point' when a child enters the school system, and how supportive assessment provides a key tool to allow for early intervention and support on the run up to starting school -. There is however, arguments of how the refined and standardised assessment of developmental achievement is a hindering such school readiness in the form of extensive datafication. Some teachers, too focused on deciding if children fit into these boxes of 'expected behaviour', - especially in the areas of literacy and math - forget the richness of children's play itself, instead of actually appreciating children's play and becoming ‘co-adventurers’ in the exploration, they are too busy recording the children's target behaviours. Some practioners even viewing the relationship of play and learning to contribute as a reward system, scheduled in through time, only after completing literacy or mathematic focus lessons.

This phenomenon is most serious in primary schools. According to the 2019 figures, more than 290,000 children in England enrolled in primary school education. These classes usually have no separate buildings and are under the unified management of primary school head teachers and governors. Additionally, in most cases it is evident that most primary school leaders, do not have extensive, if any clear understanding of the early years or early child development, primarily measuring success on teachers evaluations of children's academic achievement. Greg himself, has long been in charge of the teaching and management of the Foundation Stage department within primary schools. He knows that the 'lack of true play' does not only exist in such schools, so he sends a cry out into the world in the form of "Can I Go and Play Now".

True play refers to a child's choice of play, full of magic, wonder and uncertainty; free from the constraints of adults expectations and outcomes.

Understanding this background is important when reading this book. Many people, myself included perceived these frameworks of education to be a system centred on 'children'. With the Statutory Framework outlining some of the core principles explaining how every child should be viewed as 'unique'...'learning and developing in their own way at their own pace'. I was led to believe how this system advocated for free access to outdoor spaces, with magical areas of core provision through a 'constant supply' of enthralling resources that included nature wildlife and the outdoors. However on deeper assessment this system could be argued as being centred on 'children's learning and development' with the fundamental aim of ensuring children are preparing for their next stages in learning, with one main focus to achieve 'school readiness'.

So how do we utilise what we know, wherever we stand today, and find balance between systematic requirements and the joy of childhood? Greg emphasises, continually throughout his book how to embrace the value of childhood here and now, not just for the preparatory value. Supporting children to be dreamers, explorers, doers and creators, not just to achieve those early learning goals. This idea of finding balance between performance and play is not the only key note immersed in the text, but also Greg beautifully identifies the tireless pursuit of many global early education scholars. It can be used for reference in the healthy development of preschool and primary education all over the world.

OK, now its time to find the most comfortable corner, snuggle down with your favourite hot drink and immerse your self in Greg's song ‘rediscovering the magic of childhood’.

~ END ~


| Embracing Childhood | Connecting to Nature | Celebrating Achievements |

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1 Comment

Dr Kathryn Murray
Dr Kathryn Murray
Jul 04, 2021

Great article on early childhood in the UK and the relevance of Greg’s book to make a difference. A good read- thank you.

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