Play in the South Winter Conference

Links Function & Event Centre, Christchurch, New Zealand

22 July 2022

Following on from the success of our annual Joy of Play Educators’ Conference in the North, this conference is for primary and EC teachers and other professionals with an interest in the use of play as a pedagogical tool based in the South Island.  Longworth Education is excited to host this inaugural event, and welcome all those passionate about play to join us for an exciting and inspiring day.

Celebrating learning through play at school

2022 Conference Details

22 July 2022

8.30 – 3.30pm

$150 + GST (Early Bird)

From 1 June $180 + GST

Register for the 2022 conference by completing the registration form on this page.

Pay directly via online banking, or request an invoice for your school.

Featured Speakers 2022

Keynote Speaker: Jill Eggleton, QSO

4Bs: Battles, Beliefs, Barriers and Bridges

Debates on effective literacy instruction born out of passionate beliefs, at times create battlefields inside and outside our schools, which can cause deep divisions. 

Jill  will share her beliefs on literacy learning and the people who have had a profound influence on forming these over the years. She will share snippets of her own educational journey and why she passionately believes we must preserve rich legacies of the past but be open to new ideas that will improve learning outcomes for our children today.

Barriers that prevent children from viewing literacy as tedious or joyless will be considered and the need to bridge the gap, so that all educators work together to regain the highly respected, world-renowned literacy legacy, New Zealand was once proud of. 

Jill Eggleton has a life-long passion for literacy learning arising from a successful career as an Assistant Principal and classroom teacher in a variety of cultural and socio- economic backgrounds.  Jill has been a keynote speaker at numerous literacy conferences nationally and internationally and has provided professional development for teachers in NZ, Australia USA, South Africa, UAER, Canada, Europe and China.  She is an author of over 800 children’s books, poetry and teacher’s resource books. In 2010 she was awarded a Q.S.O for Education and Literacy in NZ and in 2015 the Margaret Mahy medal for her work in children’s Literature. Jill has an interest in motivating and encouraging teachers to focus on what matters in literacy learning – pedagogy and methods and that are educationally sound, simple to implement and enjoyable for both teachers and students.


Closing Speaker: Dr. Sarah Aiono

Walking the Talk: Ensuring our Practice Reflects our Knowledge and Beliefs About All Things Play

In this closing session, Sarah will challenge teachers to reflect on the many tensions faced in the classroom by those passionate about play and developmentally responsive teaching practices.  She will dispel myths and misunderstandings about play as a pedagogical tool and the way in which many of the day to day routines and activities we ask children to do are often in direct contrast to that of the kaupapa play.  Sarah will provide real-world examples of the curriculum coming alive for learners engaged in play (of all ages) and inspire those passionate about play to keep challenging the status quo to better reflect the notion of self-directed learning.

Dr. Sarah Aiono is a speaker, facilitator, coach, classroom teacher and host of the popular podcast series Play Conversations.  She has taught across all levels of the primary school sector, both in mainstream and in special needs settings. It was her experience working with children who struggled to work within the mainstream, traditional classroom setting, that led her on a journey of inquiry, reflection and research in an attempt to challenge what has always been done. Sarah is a passionate play expert and leader of play pedagogy across the primary school sector. As CEO and co-director of Longworth Education, Sarah works to support teachers to marry what they believe and know about play to their everyday classroom practice, and advocates for learning environments in which children are able to pursue their own talents, passions and interests at school.  Her research has enabled her to identify observable teacher behaviours in the classroom that ensure the outcomes of play shared across decades of international research are realised in the primary school setting.


Breakout Speakers 2022

Heather McQuillan

In this session with Heather, attendees will explore the developmental stages of writing from the urge to make marks to making and crafting meaning. At Write On teachers and educators are guided by the whakatauki: Ko te ahurei o te tamaiti ka ārahi i ā tātou mahi. Let the uniqueness of the child guide our work. To guide young writers we need to take notice of what they have the urge to say and help them to find the best ways and words to put that in writing.

Heather is the director at Write On School for Young Writers in Christchurch with over 35 years in the education system, a number of writing awards, a Master of Creative Writing and five books to her name. Sometimes she is a writer who teaches and at other times she is a teacher who writes. For more information visit:

Tara O’Neill

He manako te Kōrua i kore ai. Wishing for a crayfish won’t bring it.

Over the last ten years Tara has come face to face with change as she grappled with the NZ Education system and has attempted to change learning for our ākonga. Why? That is important and How? That’s critical as well. She is now two years into developing Play and Projects at Waitati School, Otago. She continues to learn how to navigate changing a learning culture to include Play within the NZ Education system. In this presentation, she shares key drivers to enable this, acknowledging that purposeful change is required to enable play to flourish in a school. These include systems thinking, resourcing and coaching.

Tara is Principal of Waitati School, a year 1-8 rural school 20 minutes north of Dunedin.  Prior to this role, she spent the last 10 years developing play in two different Area Schools.  She is also the founder of the popular Learning through Play Facebook page and is a passionate advocate of play. 

Celia Hogan

Risky play is not just about the physical development it is about building self-confidence, problem solving and emotional resilience. These skills are transferable to other areas of our lives, they help us to cope when faced with challenging situations and are essential for a child’s healthy overall development. So many adults are hesitant when children take risks, they put roadblocks in the way or project their own fears onto the children they work with. Yet children have been taking risks since the day they were born and taught themselves many things. If we truly see children as capable and competent then we need to let them play in the ways, they developmentally need to.

In this session Celia will unpack the 8 elements of Risky Play, discuss terms like learning injuries and life altering injuries, identify the difference between risky play and dangerous play, understand our own risk profile and the impact of our language on play. Finishing off Celia will share with you a simple tool that can be used to assess your outdoor environment to help enhance the play space and enable positive risky play.

Celia is the founder of Little Kiwis Nature Play, a provider of professional development programmes focused on embedding outdoor philosophies and nature education into ECE centres and primary across New Zealand. For the past 20 years she has worked for a variety of organisations internationally, setting up, developing and running outdoor programmes, wilderness expeditions, leadership development programmes and establishing risk management and safety systems. Celia brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to all that she does. With a passion for nature play and risky play, she manages to juggle workshops, speaking engagements, running bush kindy sessions and taking her own kids on adventures in nature. To learn more visit:

Ella Pountney & Suzie Kerr

Ella and Suzie will share what play can look like for students who have complex needs, communication challenges and those who find regulating emotions tricky.  They will explore the concept that solitary play is okay for students and promote the use of play as a context for developing communication, culture and an engagement rich classroom.  In their journey, they have questioned how play is woven within literacy, maths, inquiry and AAC and believe that the key lies in the skill and knowledge of the teachers involved.  They recognise that tamariki learn best through play, and for those who may have missed a pre-school experience, play offers the opportunity to bridge the gap, regardless of age, language or prior knowledge.

Ella, Suzie and Bettina are specialist education teachers at Waitaha School in Christchurch.  The school caters for students aged 5 – 21 years. 

Dr. Sarah Aiono

Play is commonly accepted as a relevant and important medium for learning in the early years (ages 3 – 7), and yet international literature supports the continuity of play opportunities for older children and adolescents.  In this session, Sarah will identify what play looks like for older kids, and how it differs (and doesn’t differ) from younger children’s play.  She will provide some practical ways in which teachers can get play going in their senior-school classrooms, and discuss some of the challenges play for older kids brings.

Sarah is the CEO and co-director of Longworth Education.  She is an advocate of play continuing for all ages (including adults) and supports teachers through coaching, professional development, and her popular podcast Play Conversations, to ensure play opportunities are made available across all levels in the school system.  

Longworth Education Team of Presenters

Following on from Jill Eggleton’s Keynote address, this session will focus on how teachers can ensure a literacy-rich play environment that supports the development of literacy in meaningful and relevant contexts for children engaged in play.  Practical examples will be shared, along with the acknowledgement of the place and importance of explicit instructional teaching of literacy, and the management of this in a child-led learning environment.

Longworth Education provide in-classroom coaching and support for teachers wishing to embed evidence-based play pedagogy in their school setting, as well as workshops, webinars and mentoring.  

Lisa Lyell

In this presentation, Lisa will share how she has established an environment where tamariki can be creative, independent problem-solvers.  She lutlines how to establish a rhythm to intentional teaching and observation of play.  She will address challenges that arise within indoor and outdoor environments including storage of resources, packing up, and the kinds of equipment most useful for enabling play in the school setting.

Lisa is a junior school teacher at Palmerston Primary School in North Otago.  She has presented at several of Longworth Education’s conferences, and is a highly experience play practitioner.  Attendees enjoy her practical and realistic presentation delivery and leave motivated to try new ideas back in their school settings. 

Rachael Lawless

In this session, Rachael will share her own journey in teaching and learning through play – specifically in regards to facilitating a smooth transition into primary education. The catalyst for Rachael’s journey into play was the number of children she was finding whose needs were not being met in her school’s more traditional classrooms with the subsequent transition to school proving difficult. She has had great success in her play environment with supporting children with hugely varying needs into their primary education. In addition, she will share some of the research she is currently studying about how teachers can best support continuity of learning for our youngest school learners.

Rachael is a new entrant teacher and junior team leader at Bathgate Park School, a full primary school located in South Dunedin.  She is a learning through play advocate and has taught primarily in the new entrant room for most of her teaching career.  She is currently completing her Post Graduate Diploma in Education at Massey University, specialising in the Early Years. 

Jennifer McBride

Play can help children to reduce anxiety, provide them with the place and space to learn about decision making and also helps them to build responsive and reciprocal social relationships.  All of these underpin the kind of resilience children require in 2022 and beyond.  In this session, participants will have the opportunity to explore what resiliency is, and why it is a crucial indicator of how we fare as adults.  This session will also unpack what resiliency might look like in participants’ settings and offer practical ways in which they can support children to develop resiliency through play.

Jennifer is an early childhood tutor at Ara Institute of Canterbury.  She has been involved in the ECE sector for over 30 years in varying roles.  In this time, she has taught all ages, and as a result observed a direct correlation between resiliency skills learnt at an early age and learner skills needed to succeed as an adult.  She is runs Resilient Child, a business working 1:1 with children and centres on developing resiliency through yoga and mindfulness programs. 

Colette Murphy

This practical and interactive presentation will show participants how to use play to support children when they need to play out their experiences and process the range of feelings that arise as they grow.  Play is a powerful way to process experiences, in particular stressful, scary or traumatic ones. Play can be used to support children with saying goodbyes, challenging behaviours, anxiety, aggression, fear, and sensitivities – in essence, it has a role to play from birth to adulthood. Bring your emotionally challenging parenting and teaching moments and we will play them out so that you can use play every day to support children with their feelings and responses to the world around them.

Collette is a mum, Play Centre parent, kaiako, and paediatric speech-language therapist at Not Only Words, a private speech-language therapy provider in Christchurch. She uses play as the primary modality for delivering therapy and coaches parents in the power of play to build communication and relationships. She is also trained in the Neufeld attachment-based developmental framework. 

Prue Frost and Maddie Brown

New Entrant teachers Prue Frost and Maddie Brown implemented Learning through Play at Balaclava School in Dunedin 5 years ago. They wanted to use their forest surroundings to encourage outside play with a focus on risk taking and creativity. Over time they have built up resourcing for their forest play which includes, pulley systems, huts, gardens, a mud pit, outdoor kitchen and water play. They will share their journey including overcoming barriers such as health and safety, tree climbing and supporting students with individual risk assessment in the forest. Transitioning from Early Childhood to school with Forest Friday visits will be explored too.The love of the forest has exploded into all areas of the school and with the strong results identifying that the benefits of this play far out weigh the risks.

Prue and Maddie are teachers at Balaclava School in Dunedin.  While the school is situated in the middle of Dunedin city, when people arrive they feel like they are in the country.  Prue and Maddie have had huge support from their community in developing forest play at school, and with support from management, forest play has become an integral part of their school community. 

Nicky Crawford

Philosophy for Children (P4C) been practiced across the world for more than 5 decades and is used as a way of extending thinking and oral language in students of all ages. The big ideas that can be explored in P4C are topics that are of common interest to the curious of all ages and PC delivers a way of making big issues accessible to young children. By linking the development of play invitations and the way that play is set up with key philosophical ideas, there is potential for children to experience philosophical themes in an active way. This presentation will explore what is a community of inquiry and how the pedagogy of play can make it accessible to young children. It will also look at practical ways of introducing philosophical themes and play reflections that lead children to consider ‘big ideas’ alongside their friends.

Nicky is a classroom teacher at Hira School in north Nelson.  She has a year 2/3 class and works collaboratively with her year 0/1 colleague.  Hira School is a country school with a strong community feel.  They are passionate about their environment and learning in the outdoors. 

Amber Donaldson & Julie MacManus

In this session, Amber and Julie will share their experiences with learning through play in the New Entrant setting, and focus on how it supports a successful transition from early childhood education to the school classroom.  Discussion will include:

  • structure of the day and the management of child-led play versus explicit acts of teacher (i.e., reading)
  • planning for play and responding to interests/urges
  • teaching and learning using the key competencies
  • the use of learning stories

Amber and Julie are New Entrant teachers at Oxford Crescent School in Upper Hutt.  They have been on a play journey for four years, with the senior end of their school now embarking on play in 2022. 

Sally Jamieson and Nicky Crawford

“That which is nurtured blossoms and grows”.  Sally and Nicky will explore their experiences of play based learning delivery in a country school to a multi-level group of learners across two classrooms.  They have a strong school ethos of nurture and many of their learning experiences reflect this, whether through play invitations or reflection focused on care and nurture.  They are interested in how play based learning can grow a school ethos and develop into learning that is unique to the character of an individual school by careful planning, conversation and collaboration.

Sally and Nicky are both teachers at Hira School in North Nelson.  Their classrooms are adjoining and they work collaboratively to develop programs that honour Hira’s commitment to providing a caring and nurturing environment for tamariki. 

Rebecca Heeley

Join Rebecca for a reflection on incorporating learning through play into her Decile 10 school. This session will explore the benefits she has experienced, the challenges faced and how she has overcome them (or learnt to live with them in some cases). In addition, Rebecca will share what adjustments she was required to make, philosophically and physically for her play to continue and thrive. Finally, Rebecca will outline how her journey in play naturally evolved into a deeper look at learner readiness, structured literacy and how these work together.

Rebecca is a year 1 teacher at Remarkable Primary School in Queenstown.  She is also a within school lead for her kāhui ako, where she has lead several inquiries within her school. 

Nicole Lowrey

The Ready 4 Learning framework supports and underpins the “foundation skills” needed for a learner to be curriculum ready. Nicole presents this practical workshop to enhance and focus play-based learning environments to benefit learners and equip them with the skills they need to experience success as they begin their learning journey. The workshop will focus on:

  • Ready 4 Learning foundation skills that children need to access the New Zealand Curriculum.
  • how to use the framework as part of your play based learning environment to get to know your learners
  • how to use this information to inform your provocations and understand what is happening play, and
  • how you can analyse, track, and report your findings.

Nicole is a New Zealand teacher, researcher and facilitator with over 15 years experience working in primary schools and early childhood settings.  Her research includes transition, play, literacy, equity, access to curriculum, culturally responsive practice and key competencies.  She is a facilitator and PD provider for Ready 4 Learning in Otago. 

Register Here

"I have just had a chance to sit and watch the teaching the key competencies while kids play webinar.  Thanks so much, it was very valuable for me as a beginning teacher to understand ways to be able to teach these in the classroom.  I feel much more confident now to be able to pull something out from my observations of play to work on with the class and how to do this.

"I look forward to more Longworth Education webinars!"

"Your presentation was superb and had me smiling away and laughing out loud!  In fact, your amazingness made me feel quite inadequate!  You will be pleased to know that tomorrow afternoon Room 9 is making 'George's Marvelous Medicine' and my T.Aide is planning to have a magic oven (double-doored cardboard box oven) which produces edible fairy bread once the magical potion is put in!  Let the fun begin!"

"Oh, we had so much fun making Marvelous Medicine! The poor carpet suffered under our creativity though, and we made it into the newsletter this week (because a group of girls were sharing a kids cookbook and made up a fantasy cook-off, telling everyone what group they'd be in and who out of the powers above were going to be the judges) We had a four-group bake off in the staff room, with no-bake fudge/truffle dishes.  The next day The Principal and two Deputy Principals were cordially invited to judge the dishes. Oh, the squeals of delight at the judging! The children all took home cellophane parcels of all the treats.  We honoured Tanvi with massive applause at the end, for taking the book out of the school library and making up the idea!  How much am I enjoying the licence to follow child-led learning?  

"Thank you, Longworth, for all your guidance and affirmation that we are on the right track.  But most of all for leading the charge and changing the tone, under which our children can learn best!  Thank goodness!"