Ashley Gray: Rethinking role play in the reception class

Here, 2nd year  student Ashley Grey discusses role play in the reception class:

Name: Ashley Gray

Twitter: @ashley_g1992

ideas children

I am very passionate about incorporating play into classroom learning. From experience of having two young children in Nursery and Reception class at school, I have noticed some major differences in their classroom set up and in the way they learn. My nursery child comes home very happy and excited to go back, this is not always the case with my Reception child.

From Developmental Psychology this year I have developed further in my love of how children learn. I have learnt about children learning outside of the classroom, but I wanted to know how children learn in the classroom through play.  Children in different countries throughout the world do not start formal education until 6 or 7, some of those countries have the most successful education systems and I think play is the key.

Article name: Rethinking role play in the Reception Class

The UK education system has adapted throughout the years to incorporate play into the Foundation Stage. This development is a welcome change, however not enough reviews have been done to test whether or not the current early year’s curriculum works.

A study by Rogers and Evans (2007) looked at the interaction between the implemented curriculum and the children’s response to that curriculum, through studying children’s role play activities. It also looked at the impact the curriculum has on the nature of children’s role play activities.

The sample included children, aged 4-5 years, from a mixed reception and year 1 class in a rural area, a reception class in a small town; and an early year’s unit in substantial urban school. Eighty children were involved in the study in term one and this rose to 144 in term two. A total of 71 visits were made over the course of the school year, each visit lasting half the school day.

The research was conducted in a qualitative manner. Semi-structured interviews and observations were used to collect information. Given the age of the children, child friendly methods were used ie. Speaking to the children, having the children take photographs, observing role play, drawing their favourite role play scenarios etc.

The results showed that the space and level of interruptions negatively affected the flow of role play for the children, this suggested the classes were not adequately equipped for the needs of children aged 4-5 years. Play appeared to be contained by the teacher which proved difficult for the children to feel they had met their role play needs. Furthermore the lack of space created issues for boy’s needs, as they require more space to fully express their role play needs.

In conclusion, role play is considered an important aspect of early learning. However, certain teaching practices prevent children from fully expressing themselves. Although early year’s education has improved dramatically over the years, Reception classes have not been adjusted to be able to reflect those advances. Development is needed of a more play centred pedagogy, one which allows children to reach their potential, and one which takes into account the needs of the children it caters for.



Rogers, S. and Evans, J. (2007) ‘Rethinking role play in the Reception class’, Educational Research, 49(2), pp. 153-167.