Careers

Playworkers can practice at a number of different levels and can follow different paths - everything from part-time temporary work to full time permanent posts developing or managing play settings.

We work together with SkillsActive, the sector skills council for active leisure, learning and wellbeing, to ensure that playworkers have the skills and knowledge to do their job well and make sure that they have access to career pathways.

Imagine career possibilities as a climbing frame ...
You can climb up to higher levels in the same type of work. As you climb up, the work will involve more responsibility and perhaps supervision of other workers. If you climb sideways you move into different areas of work within the children's workforce. With this climbing frame the rungs that help in moving around are training and qualifications.

Playworker

'What does it take to be a playworker? Patience, having a sense of fun, being easy-going ... having empathy with children.'

Playworkers work to support children by:

  • Making opportunities for them to create new and different spaces for playing; places big and small, inside or out, that are attractive and offer freedom to play
  • Providing or making available all kinds of everyday stuff' that children might use in playing
  • Watching and learning from children about play and how to better support it
  • Being around if needed


Playworkers also listen to children, build relationships with them, foster their self-esteem, encourage independence, help them when they ask and stand up for them.  As playworkers we also support children in creating uncertainty and challenge as part of their play - assessing the risks involved and intervening where absolutely necessary. We deal with injuries and illness as they arise, liaise with parents and advocate for children's right to play in their community. Although you may be able to start in this job without a relevant qualification you will be expected to gain one eventually.

Senior Playworker

A senior playworker has the same role as a playworker in terms of supporting children's play, and at the same time takes on additional responsibility for the play project. The extra responsibilities might include supervising volunteers and playworkers, developing a new project, handling a budget or representing the play project in meetings with other professionals.

A senior playworker will need to have gained at least a Level 2 and preferably a Level 3 qualification in playwork. If a senior playworker is the 'registered person' in the registration of provision with the CSSIW they must have a recognised Level 3 qualification and at least 2 years experience.

Playwork Trainer

Playwork trainers must be competent playworkers; it is vital that anyone training playworkers in playwork has wide experience of doing the job themselves.

Trainers can work within the education system (usually in Further Education colleges) or independently, in either case, they need to have a training qualification.

One of the basic qualifications recommended by Play Wales is a City and Guilds Award in Preparing to Teach in the Lifelong Learning Sector (PTLLS) which is nationally recognised and a minimum requirement for playwork trainers. It helps build confidence in basic training skills and equips trainers to deliver learning using a variety of methods to support learners' differing learning styles. 

Playwork Educator

A playwork educator, or lecturer, works in Higher Education - at university and degree level. In Wales there are lecturers in playwork at Glyndŵr University, Swansea University and Glamorgan University. In order to teach at this level a lecturer will need to have reached graduate level themselves, will need to be a competent playworker and will also have, or be working towards a certificate in teaching at this level.

Play Development Worker/Co-ordinator

A play development worker/coordinator is responsible for supporting the development of quality play provision, such as playschemes and staffed adventure playgrounds. They may have responsibility for planning the provision, making links with local community members and other agencies and managing playworkers running the provision. Alternatively, they provide support, advice and guidance to community groups interested in running provision themselves. Here, they support the development of quality play opportunities that comply with legislative duties in relation to play provision.

Ideally they will have a level 4 qualification or above in children's play. 

Play Development Officer

A play development officer is responsible for the strategic co-ordination of play opportunities locally - for instance in a local authority area. This does not mean they take direct responsibility for running play provision. Rather, they manage the development, implementation and monitoring of a local play strategy.

A play strategy is used to plan local play provision, both staffed and un-staffed. It is developed and implemented by working with many partners from different departments within the local authority (such as planning, housing, highways and education) and other agencies based within the voluntary sector, such as a regional play association. 

 

Ideally they will have a level 4 qualification or above in children's play.  

Play Therapy

Play therapy harnesses children's need to play to support them in working through mental health or behaviour issues. Therapeutic play has as its main objective the emotional well-being of children.

Play therapists receive training in child development and psychology usually at post-graduate level having accrued more than two years' experience in working with children. Personal therapy and supervised practice are essential elements of the training.

Play Therapists are employed by health, education, social services and voluntary agencies - some work on a freelance basis.

More information

Hospital Playworker

Hospital play staff can be based on a children's or adolescent ward or in a play room or play area in any part of the hospital, including the emergency department, x-ray department and out-patients department, or there could be a small team of play staff that covers all the areas requiring play across the hospital.

Hospital play staff teams are normally made up of qualified hospital play specialists and playworkers, also called play assistants or play leaders. A playworker in a hospital would normally be expected to hold a level 3 qualification in playwork, children's care learning and development or nursery nursing.

More information

Other Related Professions

Playwork is one of many professions that make up the children's workforce. The children's workforce includes teachers, teaching assistants, social workers, youth workers, nurses, youth justice, community artists, family workers, early years workers, foster carers, childminders and playworkers - everyone who works with children, young people and their families.

An understanding of children and young people's play needs and behaviours is vital to any work with children and young people. Play is one of the most important aspects of their lives and the need to play influences their behaviour wherever and whoever they are.