Fiona @ IPA Conference Glasgow 2023

Glasgow was the host city for the IPA conference and as it’s my home city, I can’t think of a better, more welcoming place, and it was sunny!


I popped into the conference to deliver the lovely wooden discs that would be given to the key speakers at the conference.

I also registered, collected my badge, and caught up with my Play Scotland colleagues.

During my catch up I was given a mission (if I chose to accept it) to drive to St Mirin Out of School Care and collect the wonderful sculpture made by the children for the Litter Pick & Play Exhibition (more details about the exhibition at

This was a very challenging mission, as the sculpture was much larger than the boot of the car! The compromise was the larger, top part to the sculpture coming with me in a taxi, much to the amusement of the taxi driver!


My first stop on Tuesday was the opening session of the conference in the main plenary where Tam Baillie, former Scottish Commissioner for Children and Young People, welcomed us all to Glasgow. Professor Philip D. Jaffé and children from Lorne Street Primary School in Glasgow took part in a very inspiring question and answer session.

Play Pedagogy

Following a short break for coffee and a lovely chat with Jenny Woods from ‘A Place in Childhood,’ I rushed to the 5th Floor to listen to a presentation by Catriona Campbell (Head Teacher at East Park). This was particularly interesting for me, as East Park are one of the schools involved in the development of our Play Scotland Play Pedagogy Award, and one of the holders of our first Gold Play Pedagogy Award! Catriona spoke with such knowledge and enthusiasm as she explained the Play Pedagogy journey of East Park that it is easy to see that she loves her job!

Following Catriona was a presentation on ‘Teacher’s Perspectives on Playful Pedagogies in the Early Years of Primary School in Ireland,’ presented by Professor Emer Ring and Dr Lisha O’Sullivan from Mary Immaculate College in Limerick, Ireland. They discussed their research which demonstrated that play pedagogical approaches can be used very successfully to support transition, inclusion, wellbeing, and learning of all school age learners. I found this fascinating, as the Play Pedagogy Co-ordinator at Play Scotland, it was inspirational to see that Play Pedagogy is gaining global interest and not just in Scotland. I had a lovely chat with Emer & Lisha after their presentation, swapped contact details and plans to stay in touch.

Child Centred Pedagogies

After lunch, I enjoyed watching Jenny Woods and Jamie Hamilton from ‘A Place in Childhood’ present on ‘the deeper foundations of child-centred pedagogies.’ Their presentation on the evolution of child-centred pedagogy and the theories of Froebel, Malaguzzi and Laevers was inspiring and demonstrated how these theories underpin educational practice here in Scotland. ‘A Place in Childhood’ were also involved in the development of our Play Pedagogy Award, so it was very nice to catch up with them.

Play Scotland Play Pedagogy Award

Then it was my turn to deliver my presentation on ‘Play Scotland Play Pedagogy Award: Recognising and celebrating creativity and commitment of schools and teachers to improving learning through play.’  As this was my first time presenting at such a large conference, I was quite nervous, however seeing the smiling faces of my colleagues in the audience certainly calmed my nerves!

As there were delegates from over 50 different countries at the conference, it was a pleasure to discuss the growing realisation by policy makers in Scotland of the importance of play to learning, development and wellbeing, with the result that play has started to become embedded in Scottish educational policy frameworks and guidance. It was exciting to tell how our Play Pedagogy Award, with its four-tiered framework, aims to build upon this, by providing support and resources to support play pedagogy and an endorsement that play pioneering teachers and schools are doing the right thing.

Play-Based Kindergarten Stage

I was really looking forward to hearing Sue Palmer discuss Play-based Kindergarten Stage in Scotland, however due to illness Sue was unable to attend. Dawn Ewan did a fabulous job of stepping into her shoes and presenting on her behalf. The Upstart Scotland campaign to develop a rights-focus, relationship-centred, play-based kindergarten stage for children from 3 to 7 is close to my heart, as I worked in early years for a number of years.

Evening Entertainment

After a hard day at the conference, it was great to relax and enjoy dinner with my colleagues and then onto the ceilidh held at the beautiful Òran Mór.


My day started with watching an interesting panel discussion on the state of play in Scotland, featuring Natalie Don, MSP, (Minister for Children, Young People and Keeping the Promise) and our very own CEO Marguerite Hunter Blair.

The Place Standard Tool: How Good Is My Place?

Following the panel discussion, I went to a workshop co-presented by Marguerite,  Kuan Loh, (Senior Architect, Scottish Government) and Etive Currie, (Senior Planner, Glasgow City Council) which demonstrated how the Place Standard tool supports creating better places where we live, work, play and thrive. Children’s surroundings can have a direct impact on their health and wellbeing, so I found this really interesting and worthwhile.

The ‘Aileymillers’

I really enjoyed being interviewed by 3 children from the ‘Aileymillers’ group where they asked me questions about my thoughts about play, linked to the conference themes. The questions were really well thought out and fun to answer!

Planning for Play

After a delicious lunch and a brief sit in the sunshine, it was off to the first floor to watch our Director of Projects, Cherie Morgan, present on ‘planning for play and the journey towards play sufficiency.’ Cherie develops and leads projects that will improve children’s opportunities for play in their local community and the Play Sufficiency Tool is a fabulous addition to this. There was a lot of interest from delegates from other countries following Cherie’s presentation and I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the delegates develop their own versions in their own countries.

Intergenerational Play & Storytelling

The last presentation that I attended on Wednesday was probably the most fun one of the week! Jenny Lester, our own Learning and Development Officer at Play Scotland, enthralled us with her tale of the Intergenerational Play and Storytelling project, created in collaboration with Generations working together. She finished off her presentation with the song ‘Ye Cannae Shove yer grannie aff a bus’ which was sung with much gusto by the delegates and was a lovely way to end the day!


I joined our Play Scotland OPAL mentor Simon Knight at Udston Primary School on Thursday. The tour was a sell-out with over 30 IPA delegates keen to visit the school and see for themselves the development of the outdoor area and the changes to the school culture that Simon has encouraged through the OPAL programme. We had a lovely time in the playground during break and the children were very keen to show us around and the improvements that had been made. After the children returned to class, the delegates made great use of the hill and took turns rolling down it. Just goes to show that we’re never too old to play!