Young Morgan (youngest of my Not So Very Little Welsh Boys) tells me, with considerable pride, that he is now a Playground Pal. I haven’t the faintest idea what a Playground Pal is, but I can tell from his voice
that it is a Very Important Position. “Wow!” I say - playing for time while I try to establish a few more facts…
Morgan says that as a Playground
Pal he will wear a purple and orange vest, over the top of his school uniform. I would love, I tell him, to see a photo - but apparently that won’t be possible, as he will only be wearing it at school. The purple
and orange vest will, however, serve an important purpose in letting other pupils know who to turn to if they are feeling sad, lonely, worried or bothered by anything - or anyone. They will spot Young Morgan - distinctive in orange and purple - and know he
is someone they can talk to.
Is this a bit like a Friendship Bench, I ask? Those playground benches where a lonely one could sit as a sign that he or she
would like some company? Morgan says his school had a Friendship Bench once but people just sat on it….
I tell Morgan that as far as I am concerned he will
make the perfect Playground Pal as he always, but always, has something to say about anything and everything. I base this on my long experience of our Early Morning Conversations when he and his brothers come to stay. I have never, as far as I can remember,
had to struggle to think about a suitable subject for conversation - my grandson is always ready with a list of topics. Some of which I even have what I would describe as a reasonable point of view to put forward. (This does, however, depend on (i) just how
early in the morning it is; and (ii) whether it is computer-related.) Morgan accepts this as being a very fair reflection of his conversational abilities.
I finish my chat with Morgan and his older brothers, I decide to find out a little bit more about Playground Pals - and realise that my grandson had, if anything, played down the role. Playground Pals were introduced by an organisation called BulliesOut in
schools across the country. Pupils in years five and six volunteer to be a point of contact for their fellow pupils during break times, to encourage friendship and games, to make sure that nobody feels lonely and to sort out any minor concerns. The aim is
“to encourage healthier and more active playtime; one that is harmonious and reduces the potential for minor dispute.”
Now armed with more information,
I will have a number of questions to raise with my very own Playground Pal. I will ask him if there is a rota and, if so, which days he is on duty. I will want to know about the training he has received and how it has prepared him for his role. Most of all,
however, I will tell him how proud of him I am because I know that my nine year old self would never have had the confidence to be a Playground Pal.
When I was
Morgan’s age, my Little Sister had started at the Infant School which adjoined my Junior School. For the first time since I started school myself, I now had (in theory) someone to play with - except that the mingling of Infant and Junior School pupils
was strictly verboten.
My Little Sister and I found our own way round this. We met, every break time, at the place where the concrete playground of the Infants
School met the grass of the Junior School playing field. Law-abiding as we were (and still are), she stayed on the concrete, I on the grass. This self-imposed discipline brought a number of restrictions to the games we could play but then a child’s imagination
has never been restricted by mere boundaries.
My Little Sister and I - Playground Pals Forever!