outstanding outdoor spaces

West Walton Primary School, Norfolk

Headteacher Jill Davis gives us a little insight into the process of re-designing their playground, involving the children in the design, and the benefits she has observed since the installation of the new equipment.

Why did you want to develop your playground?

The project is the first part of a long-term ambition to completely renovate the playground apparatus. Our current climbing frame was at the end of its life, had been in place for nearly 15 years and was starting to cost us dearly in terms of repairs to the rotting wood. This raised concerns with regards to health and safety. The ground surface was also suffering wear and tear, with gaps emerging between the tiles, making it another safety hazard. Staff felt that there was not enough equipment, and the single climbing frame created problems with children having to wait for their turn on the equipment. We believed that giving the children more to do would result in fewer accidents and arguments to deal with. The children in Year 6 were keen to get involved in developing the new project as they, in particular, felt that there was not enough play equipment available. The school council surveyed the children in the school and discovered that, in particular, a large number of children really wanted a climbing wall… above everything else!

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

Our Playforce School Grounds Consultant was very approachable and explained everything very clearly. He listened to what we wanted and built his recommendations around our ideas. Above all, he understood that the children involved in the design process (two Year 6 pupils) were an equal part of our committee and listened and responded to their ideas. Prices were very reasonable, and we were able to negotiate various options to keep within the budget we had set.
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The children have developed amazingly in their confidence and self-esteem. They give themselves challenges on the equipment and are rewarded with a great sense of achievement when they master their challenges.

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

Children use the equipment during playtimes in the morning and lunchtime and teachers take classes outside for ‘special time’ or as part of PE lessons. Of course the Trio Climbing Wall Traverse is extremely popular, as are the Net Tunnel and Swinging Logs. The nursery children use the equipment weekly as part of their curriculum entitlement and the After School Club uses the equipment every day before the children have their tea. But that’s not all… it is also used by the Holiday Play Scheme every day during the school holidays and children are supervised by parents before and after school (it is often in use until well after 4.30pm)! As you can see, the children really make the most of the equipment at every available opportunity!

 

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

The children have developed amazingly in their confidence and self-esteem. They give themselves challenges on the equipment and are rewarded with a great sense of achievement when they master their challenges. The children share the space with their peers and work together with the older pupils helping the younger ones with their own challenges. Above all, it is lovely to be able to observe the children having fun and enjoying the playground with renewed enthusiasm. 

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

The whole project went smoothly according to plan. Playforce kept us informed of progress, kept to deadlines and ensured the equipment was in place exactly as planned. Including the children in every stage of the process was invaluable for those involved, but also ensured that the pupils got what THEY wanted.We are looking to complete Phase 2 in the summer of 2011, and will definitely be asking Playforce to work with us again then.


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