outstanding outdoor spaces

Cherhill CE Primary School, Wiltshire

Terry Hall, Head Teacher at Cherhill CE Primary School in Wiltshire, explains how pupils have started to initiate their own play and learning in a brand new outdoor area.

Why did you want to develop your playground?

We had been looking at developing our playground ever since I took up Headship in January 2007. The existing area was totally unmanageable and consisted of only a narrow concrete path and a large sloping grassy area. The children were also unable to use the area from November to March as it became very muddy. They had to join the rest of the pupils on the main playground which made it difficult for them to develop their play or have access to bikes or climbing equipment. We had designed our ideal area but money was always an issue. However, we were visited by OfSTED in February 2010 and they recommended that we develop our KS2 play area and so this gave us the impetus to contact companies to develop our vision and to prioritise our budget to meet the costs.

 

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

The people at Playforce were very approachable and supportive and worked well with us to develop our ideas and vision. Some of the equipment was slightly more expensive than other quotes we received but we felt that the quality far outweighed this. We also liked the guarantee that came with the equipment. Playforce kept to their deadlines and were very accommodating when I decided to change some of the design during the build. I felt very safe in the hands of our School Grounds Consultant and confident that Playforce would deliver exactly what we had agreed. The range of equipment on offer was also very good.

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The children have a secure and safe space in which to have as much physical play and exercise as possible. They can use their imaginations freely to make dens, set up picnics, invent ball games, build on a large scale, dance to music, and have a garage for the bikes.

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

We now have an easily accessible area for free-flow play where the children can ride bikes, trikes and scooters in an increasingly controlled way. The children can count the number of times they complete a circuit to develop numeracy skills, and play imaginatively pretending they are police officers, traffic control officers and superheroes!

The children enjoy building on the Hump Back Bridge with large bricks, measuring, using tools, and counting, and have even used the cover of the Sliding Lid Sandpit as a stage to perform shows!

The Lookout Tower is a popular role play area, and the top section is also ideal as a quiet reading area.

 

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

The children have a secure and safe space in which to have as much physical play and exercise as possible. They can use their imaginations freely to make dens, set up picnics, invent ball games, build on a large scale, dance to music, and have a garage for the bikes. They are close to the natural world, so have swept up the leaves, problem solved ways to transport them, made hedgehog dens, explored the frost, ice and snow, and are currently making the woods into a jungle for exploration, ‘fire lighting’ and camping. It has allowed us to have so many more opportunities available to the children on a regular basis.

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

The new outdoor area has allowed the children to initiate their own play and learning and then enhance and extend it – it is worth getting the children involved in the planning to incorporate their ideas and tap into their excitement for the outdoors. The development at our school has helped guide the children to set up rules for safe play and sharing equipment.

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