outstanding outdoor spaces

Ashmead Combined School, Buckinghamshire

Ashmead Combined School have transformed their playground to provide all of their pupils with opportunities for outdoor learning. They tell us how their new play equipment has helped bridge the gap between the classroom and the playground.
Why did you want to develop your playground?

Outdoor learning is becoming an increasingly important part of the curriculum and we felt that our playground had the potential to be an amazing outdoor space. We wanted to develop our grounds so that they would be an exciting and imaginative place to learn. By designing an interactive and stimulating space we felt that we could make the playground an extension of the classroom.

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

We knew that it would be a big project but Playforce was ready to accept the challenge with lots of ideas. They showed us a number of ways we could transform our space and utilise it to make it really engaging for outdoor learning. They showed us how the equipment could be used in a number of different ways, for developing different skills, as well as giving examples of how other schools have approached similar projects.
We knew that it would be a big project but Playforce was ready to accept the challenge with lots of ideas.
How are you using the space to deliver outdoor learning and educational play?

As a combined school we’ve got pupils of all ages and abilities but our new playground has something for everyone. The Double Woodland Tower is the centre of attention, filled with obstacles and challenges to develop a range of physical skills. The children can unleash their imaginations in a zone dedicated to the arts, it’s stocked with musical instruments and spaces to draw and paint. When we want to take science lessons outside the children can get really close to nature, with the Mini Beast Exploration Table and the Discovery Cabin. We now have endless opportunities to bridge the gap between the classroom and the playground.

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

Taking more lessons outdoors was always going to benefit our pupils but we have been amazed by the number of ways it has had a positive impact. When we take aspects of our lessons outdoors, the children are more attentive and motivated. This doesn’t just last while they’re in the playground, it stays with them when they return to the classroom. They are inspired by their natural surroundings and more creative in their thinking when they approach new problems and challenges.

Can you share any practice insights you have gained?

Not every school has an opportunity to transform their playground but even a few small changes can help boost outdoor learning. Taking just a few classes outside can inspire pupils and give their motivation and productivity a breath of fresh air.