Now an internationally renowned expert in playwork and programme manager of two master’s programmes at the University, Pete King’s career could have been very different. 

He left school with just two O-levels and a certificate in typewriting, and it wasn’t until he was in his 20s that he returned to education. 

Initially it looked like the great outdoors would be Pete’s focus after he trained in horticulture, but the classroom beckoned after he completed a degree in botany and gained a PGCE. 

He said: “Rather than becoming a teacher I got involved in a very different area of children’s services, playwork and that’s where I worked until 2008 when I embarked on a PhD in Childhood Studies.   

Pete King holding a brochure

Under the supervision of Dr Justine Howard, now a colleague, Pete’s research saw him examine children’s perception of choice in their play.  It led to him being awarded his doctorate in 2013, having four research papers published in journals as well as a chapter in the book he co-edited with research colleague Dr Shelly Newstead. 

“I was delighted that I was able to become a full member of staff here at Swansea, teaching across both undergraduate and postgraduate programmes and I’ve been programme director of the MA Developmental and Therapeutic Play and MA Childhood Studies since 2018.” 

Alongside teaching duties, Pete’s passion for play and playwork continues. His research on the Play Cycle has been published in journals and the book The Play Cycle: Theory, Research and Application with the late Gordon Sturrock.  His work with Dr Newstead has resulted in a revision of a Playwork Theory which supports playwork practice, training, and education.   

He has also developed a new tool to map play cycles using the Play Cycle Observation Method which has been piloted using both video and ‘real-time’ play situations. 

His latest research sees him focusing on how playwork has been impacted by the pandemic.  Following UK-wide research with both children and practitioners, Pete has had two publications accepted in journals with two more Covid-19 playwork-related research studies in the pipeline. 

Swansea City season ticket holder Pete is proud of his unconventional entry into academia and is particularly eager for students to be encouraged by his experience: “I always say to my students ‘education never goes away, it’s there when you want it’ and I am proof of that.”