outstanding outdoor spaces

Bromley Heath Infant School, Somerset

Chris Chrystal, Headteacher at Bromley Heath Primary School, tells us about the ways in which their new playground installations have harnessed their pupils’ enthusiasm for learning outdoors and helped them to develop numerous skills both in and outside the classroom.

Why did you want to develop your playground?

Over the past few years the staff have engaged in a curriculum review and as a result have created a curriculum that we feel is relevant, appropriate and exciting for the children in our school. Our creative curriculum features skills that we feel are important for children to learn and practice. Children use the outdoors where learning can be child-initiated and where opportunities available can be enhanced or extended. We also know that children enjoy being outside and we want to harness that enthusiasm. The school has a good outdoor space with areas of shade, a large grassed area, a timber trail, school garden, plants, trees and shrubs. However the playground, a large tarmac area with some seating, planters and markings, was identified as the area for further development. Here we aimed to encourage purposeful play to include a wider range of experiences including imaginative play, role play, problem solving and risk taking.

 

What were the key elements that made Playforce stand out from other providers?

We are committed to being a Healthy School and some years ago, as part of an initiative to encourage children to be more active, we had a Timber Trail installed by Playforce. We met with our consultant James who listened to us and understood our aims and objectives for the project. The design reflected our requirements and there was an element of choice which we could then present to the children to help us to decide on the elements to be included. The work was commissioned to take place during a holiday which provided “wow factor” for the children on their return to school. The Timber Trail was of a very high standard and made from wood, rope and minimum amounts of metal for strength and foundations. The result was fit for purpose, aesthetically pleasing and good value for money. The workmanship was of such a high standard that there have been no problems with after care – just an annual inspection – which to date has involved general wear and tear repair despite being used daily by 180 children! From our previous experience with the Timber Trail, we were fully confident to commission Playforce to design, carry out our playground development to a high standard and within the agreed timescale.

shadow
shadow
Children love the outdoor learning environment and are out in all weathers. They need to play, their impulse to play is innate and it is fundamental to healthy development.

How are you using the space to deliver outdoor learning and educational play?

Outdoor learning takes place every day and for most of the day, helped enormously by the new All Weather Grass Area. This is particularly the case for the children in Foundation Stage where a free flow approach is used. Children in Year 1 and Year 2 have designated times for outdoor learning in groups of up to 30 children, which we have found works the best, as they can access all the resources provided and have sufficient time to develop their learning. Our new gazebo has become a well-used Outdoor Classroom. Purposeful play is planned according to the next steps in children’s learning and the provision for outdoor learning is key to this.

 

What are the biggest benefits you have seen for the children?

The biggest benefits for the children are as follows: enthusiasm, challenge, promoting imaginative play, creativity, problem solving, risk taking, co-operation, perseverance, collaboration, independence and allows the children to follow their interests and initiate their own learning. Children love the outdoor learning environment and are out in all weathers. They need to play, their impulse to play is innate and it is fundamental to healthy development. For this school year we have employed a “play ranger”, for half a day a week, to support the children in the creation of a space in which they can play and to choose an intervention style that enables children to extend their play.

Can you share any best practice insights you’ve gained?

 

We have found from experience that children have lots of ideas and interests to contribute to the development of outdoor areas. They are also very resourceful and resources such as scrap guttering drainpipes, netting and parachute fabric will promote imaginative play and the use of problem solving skills. They also enjoy interacting with natural materials such as logs, stones, pebbles and rocks.

We have planned for provision and opportunities to ensure that there is progression from Foundation Stage right through to Year 2 and arranged training for staff to ensure a common perception of the purpose of outdoor learning and play in the overall development of children. You could also share your vision with parents and other stakeholders by setting up a play action group with members from all stakeholder groups and include the school council. Finally get the staff outdoors and playing!

share!
shadow