News - ESP Play - Playground Specialists

New Funding Will Create Healthier Generation

On 28 February 2017 Education Secretary Justine Greening announced that, in addition to the PE and Sport premium, schools are to receive £415 million to help pupils benefit from healthier, more active lifestyles.

ESP Play have transformed over 2,500 playground across the UK but more recently are focussing on sustainable outdoor learning. They are able to provide AfPE approved courses to staff within schools that leads to better quality provision, healthier children and a more inclusive sports environment.

Primary, secondary and sixth-form colleges will be able to use the new funding to pay for facilities to support physical education (PE), after-school activities and healthy eating. This includes indoor and outdoor facilities.

Schools will also be able to use the new healthy pupils capital programme to improve facilities for children with physical conditions or support young people struggling with mental health issues.

Education Secretary Justine Greening said:

“Schools can really help our children get a healthy start in life from exercise and sport, and also from knowing what a healthy diet means. It’s not only good for them while they’re in education, but the health and wellbeing benefits can last a lifetime.

“That’s why we’re investing £415 million in facilities to support sports, after-school activities and promoting healthy eating, so we can secure the future health of our young people.”

Local authorities and larger multi-academy trusts will receive an allocation for schools and will make decisions locally on how this money is invested. Smaller multi-academy trusts (MATs), individual academies and sixth-form centres will be able to bid for grants for specific one-off projects.

ESP Play are a leading provider of outdoor learning equipment and training to the Education sector. In addition, their sustainable approach to improving physical activity across all levels of education and their free outdoor activity design service has led to them delivering a record number of project over 2016.

The new funding will be available in 2018 to 2019. All state-funded primary, secondary and sixth-form schools in England will be eligible to receive funding

Information on the allocation formula, spending guidance and bidding criteria will follow in the summer.


How to Use Outdoor Playground Equipment to Develop Children’s Creativity

Creativity is the highest level of skill that children can aspire to and it is something all schools have an obligation to develop in their pupils. At ESP Play, we know this requires giving pupils the freedom to explore, experiment and invent; that’s why we have put together a selection of great outdoor play equipment to help you develop creativity in your school. In this post, we’ll take a look at some of the key areas where our equipment can benefit your pupils.


Children love music but their experience of it is primarily that of a consumer, not a creator. They’ll watch music videos on YouTube and listen to it on their phones but apart from their weekly music lesson most children rarely get to play on an instrument – and even then, it’s unlikely they’ll do much in the way of creative composition.

In education, the thinking is that skills and knowledge need to be learnt before children can begin to compose their own music. Although you can see the logic in this approach, most children never learn the skills well enough to get much of a chance at being creative. Letting them compose their own musical creations might increase their motivation to improve their technical skills even more.

Here at ESP Play, we have a range of easy to play outdoor musical instruments that can be put up in the playground so that children have access to them every day. They’ll give your pupils the ability to experiment with sounds, create their own tunes and practice their skills, all while having fun with their friends. By putting several instruments together, you also enable the pupils to develop ensemble skills.

With chimes, drums, drainpipe drums, xylophones, a washboard and rain wheels to choose from, you’ll find these instruments are excellent for young learners. They enable children to improvise rhythmical and melodic patterns whilst combining musical ideas and structures. At the same time, as the instruments are placed in the playground, pupils will develop confidence in performing in front of others.


Art lessons are predominantly about learning technical skills, exploring different media or discovering other artists. Children are often told what to draw or paint, what materials to use and to emulate the style of another artist or movement when doing so. However, as we all know, the greatest artists are the ones that come up with something totally new, whether a new technique such as Seurat's Pointillism or a new style, like Picasso’s Cubism.

Developing children’s ability to be creative artists is best done by giving them the opportunity to paint and draw in their own way. When going freestyle, they can use what they have learnt in lessons but can abandon those techniques in favour of artistic freedom is they wish to do so.

At ESP Play, we provide outdoor art equipment that children can use to do creative artwork in the playground whenever they like. This includes chalkboards, painting stations and whiteboards. For children who wish to explore their creativity using different media, we also have a weaving board for those with an interest in textiles. All boards are interchangeable, easy to clean and can be used in lessons and during free time.


Drama is one of the key creative subjects in schools. Not only does it enable students to develop skills in performance and come up with new ideas for plot, character and theme; it also gives children the opportunity to explore many life issues, such as bullying or the environment, and come up with creative solutions for dealing with them.

Children naturally like to act, they love to play different characters, create new worlds and think up new situations. To encourage this, schools need to provide the resources that will inspire them to improvise.

We have a selection of playground equipment designed to do exactly this. Firstly, we have a range of imaginative outdoor equipment that can create stimulating settings for children. These include wooden bridges, carriages, trains, tunnels, mud kitchens, kiosk play panels and play huts. At the same time, we also provide outdoor performance stages. These are available in different sizes and shapes and there’s even a proscenium theatre façade to create the ideal outdoor performance setting.

Outdoor stages not only stimulate children to get creative, they also provide the teacher with the necessary space to rehearse drama and perform it in front of an audience: our octagonal shelters with tiered seating, for example, create the perfect theatre in the round.

Creative Thinking

Of course, artistic pursuits are not the only route to developing creative thinking. We also have a selection of other school playground equipment that can stimulate those who are not as artistically inclined. This includes a range of board games including chess, Ludo and Connect 4 for those who like creative problem solving, sand and water play for the tactile explorer, and for those tactile problem solvers we have Soma cubes and tangram tables.


For many children, one of the most important drivers when it comes to being creative is having the space to play. When children feel it is safe to run around and have fun, they are often at their most inventive. To make your playground more inviting and safer for children to play on, take a look at our great choice of playground flooring, we supply block paving, artificial grass, rubber mulch, resin bound gravel, grass matting as well as sports and wet pour surfacing.


Play and creativity go hand in hand, so it makes sense for schools wanting to develop creativity to use the playground as the setting to do this. Our range of creative equipment is ideal for use during free time and can also be incorporated into structured lessons.


Ideal Playground Equipment to Help Kids Learn About Nature and The Environment

Exploring nature and the environment is essential if children are to develop a better understanding of the world in which they live. It helps improve their understanding of science and increases their awareness of our impact on the environment. In this article, we’ll look at a selection of outdoor playground equipment you can use to help pupils learn about the environment in fun, hands-on ways.


Birds & Bugs

One of the best ways you can get children to appreciate birds and bugs is through seeing them close up in their natural habitats. To make this possible, we have created a range of outdoor science resources designed to encourage these animals to visit and even make their homes on your school’s grounds.

Our butterfly boxes, for example, are the perfect way for children to study these beautiful creatures. The wooden boxes are a safe environment for butterflies and with its Perspex window, children can regularly observe how the insects change during their life cycle. The boxes attract different species of hibernating butterflies during the winter and are also used to lay eggs, hatch larvae and change into caterpillars. Some caterpillars will even use the box as the place to form their chrysalis and turn into a butterfly.

For a wider variety of bug life, we also have ladybird towers and our wonderful insect habitat which, with its many nooks and crannies, is the ideal home for a wide variety of insects, all of which can be studied close up on a regular basis.

If you are looking to investigate the birdlife in your school’s local area, then our bird tables can be a great way to encourage them onto your premises. Put it in a quiet spot where children can observe through a window without disturbing the birds and you’ll soon find them flocking to your site. You can even set up a camera and take pictures of the different species that visit. You’ll also be able to help them stay fed during the winter months.

Sustainable Living

It’s important that all children learn to appreciate food, where it comes from and how it grows. There is no better way of doing that then letting them grow their own food and, if possible, getting them to cook and eat it once it is harvested.

Here at ESP Play, we have everything you need to create your own school food garden so children can learn about sustainable living, first hand. Our growing boxes and herb planters are ideal for growing a range of organic, seasonal vegetables and herbs which can be harvested and taken straight to the kitchen. Ideal for easy planters like carrots, peas, potatoes, tomatoes, etc.

Fascinating Flora

Learning about a plant’s lifecycle is a key part of the National Curriculum and our schools’ outdoor planting equipment enables children to study how plants grow and to see the effects that soil, sunlight and water have on them. You can compare different species of plant and take a close look at the fauna that lives on them. We even provide an investigation table, specially designed to help students do exciting scientific investigations into the soil and plants.

At the same time, you can bring the beauty of nature right into the heart of your school’s playground by creating an area that is full of colourful, scented plants. This is a great way to help pupils appreciate nature whilst creating a calm and peaceful space for them to spend their lunch and break times.

We provide schools with a range of planters, trellises and digging pits. We even have planters with Perspex windows so children can observe root growth and under soil fauna without having to disturb the plants and risk damaging their delicate root systems. Alternatively, you can also install one of our unique, curriculum-based growing boards.

We also provide fencing and gates if you want to keep your mini nature reserve as a special place which can only be visited under supervision.

Watching The Weather

Studying the weather is another area covered by the National Curriculum and one of the things children love to do the most is record the weather in their own location. Here at ESP Play, we have developed a selection of weather stations that record wind speed, precipitation, cloud cover and a range of other details that children can use to examine weather patterns and seasonal changes. These can be mounted on posts or on walls in your playground for ease of use and can be taken down when not needed.


Helping children get closer to nature can have lots of benefits. It helps them appreciate the environment, leading to an increased awareness of the need to protect it in the future. At the same time, first-hand experience of investigating nature helps pupils develop a deeper understanding of the science taught in the classroom. Using our range of outdoor playground equipment, you can easily transform your grounds into your own nature zone and take your science lessons outside. For more details, check out our Nature and Garden section.


How Outdoor Playground Equipment Helps Achieve Healthy School Status

Receiving the Healthy School Award is an achievement for any school as it shows commitment to the health and wellbeing of staff and students alike. It proves you’ve put policy into practice and come up with beneficial outcomes – something that will be appealing to Ofsted, potential parents and those highly skilled staff you need to recruit. In this post, we’ll look at the ways outdoor play equipment can help you achieve healthy school status.

Areas in which school playground equipment can help

There are four core elements schools needs to address to achieve the award: personal, social and health education, healthy eating, physical activity, and emotional health and wellbeing. Outdoor play equipment can help you meet several of the criteria in the last two of these areas.

Physical activity

Many of the criteria listed under physical activity are managerial ones – creating policies, implementing and monitoring plans, and consulting with others, however, the aim of all these is to ensure the following outcomes are achieved:

  • Pupils are provided with a range of opportunities to be physically active.
  • They understand that physical activity can be a part of their everyday life.
  • They understand how physical activity can help them to be healthier.

Installing outdoor playground equipment at your school can help you achieve two specific criteria under this heading: firstly, with providing two hours of structured physical activity per week and, secondly, with getting children to participate in extracurricular activities that promote physical activity.

Helping improve structured physical activity

When it comes to structured activity, there is a wide range of outdoor playground equipment that can help. For example, at ESP Play, we provide playground markings for many different sports including basketball, cricket, football, netball and tennis. There is also a wide selection of markings that are designed for sports training and to develop skills, such as target trainers, zigzag steppers and ball catcher trainers. These can be placed together to create a multi-skills zone.

In addition to our markings, we have other equipment to help with physical activity, such as our AllGo outdoor multi-gym, which includes pull up and press up bars, leg raise, step up box, monkey bars and sit up benches. Of course, we provide all the other equipment you may need, too: basketball hoops, football goals, safe playground flooring, etc.

With this range of equipment available, it is easy for schools to extend the opportunities for pupils to participate in structured physical activity – both within the curriculum and in extracurricular activities.      

Improving participation in extracurricular physical activity

Improving participation in extracurricular activities can be a real challenge for schools. Teachers are still busy when the school closes and many children can’t or don’t want to stay at school beyond the final bell. However, outdoor playground equipment offers the perfect solution. If it is in your playground, every child has access to it every single day, and as it provides the opportunity for unstructured activity during break and lunchtimes, there is no need for extra staffing or to plan activities.

The key to increasing participation lies in installing equipment that will entice pupils to take part and at ESP Play, that is something we specialise in. Besides the equipment mentioned above, which provides the opportunity for a spot of lunchtime football or netball, we have a wide range of equipment designed just for active play. This includes exciting Trim Trails and Free Flow climbing apparatus, RoSPA approved Parkour (freerunning) equipment, climbing walls, play towers and much more.

Independent research has shown that equipment like this encourages much greater participation in physical activity – both in terms of how many students get involved and the amount of time each student participates.

By providing these types of facilities it would make it much easier for schools to achieve the criteria of increasing participation. It would also be easy to provide data about the number of children participating in order to prove that increases had occurred. In addition, this also helps to show children that physical activity can be part of everyday life – another criteria schools need to meet.

Of course, not every child wants to take part in these types of activity but there are ways you can encourage the less sporty and more artistically minded pupils to get active too. For younger children, there is a selection of role-play equipment: bridges, tunnels, trains, wigwam posts, etc., and for children of all ages, there is a selection of stages on which they can practice and perform dance routines or make up their own plays.

Improving emotional health and wellbeing

Our playground equipment for schools can help you meet three separate criteria for emotional health and wellbeing:

  • Establish appropriate strategies to support vulnerable children.
  • Create a positive environment which enhances emotional health and well­being.
  • Provide opportunities for pupils to participate in school activities to build their confidence and self-esteem.

The reason school playground equipment can help is that physical activity can improve a range of mental health problems including depression and anxiety - indeed, it is sometimes prescribed as a treatment for these. It can even have a positive impact on ADHD. And for all children, it has been shown to improve mood and cognitive alertness.

In this sense, simply installing fun and stimulating playground equipment immediately creates a positive environment for enhancing emotional health. That equipment, however, can also be used to put ‘appropriate strategies’ in place to support children with emotional issues or diagnosed mental health problems. Giving these students timetabled access to equipment will increase their activity levels to help them deal with their illnesses. This is certainly worthwhile considering the difficulties schools have in accessing other support, such as educational psychologists and trained counsellors.

As for the third criteria, school playground equipment such as trim trails and climbing frames has an in-built element of challenge. Children want to get to the end of the obstacle course or finish the climb before falling off. These are perfect for building confidence and boosting self-esteem all while doing something that is fun and healthy. And because many of our products have interchangeable components, you can increase or decrease the challenge whenever you need to.


From reading this article you should now have a clearer idea of how school playground equipment can help your school attain Healthy School Status. It can be used to expand opportunities for structured physical activity, increase participation in extracurricular time and, by helping kids be more active, have a positive impact on their emotional wellbeing.


How Outdoor Play Can Improve Pupils’ Mental Health

The mental health of young people is a serious issue now firmly on everyone’s agenda. Currently, one in ten pupils suffer from a mental health disorder: that’s 27 in the average primary and 94 in the average secondary school. With increasing pressure put on children to perform well in schools and with many of them not leading healthy lifestyles out of school, the problem only looks like it is going to get worse. Add to this the deficiencies in NHS mental health care, falling school budgets and the increasing costs of accessing ed psychs and other professionals and the future looks dire.

There is, however, one area where schools can have a positive impact on the mental health of all their pupils, including those who are already diagnosed with disorders – and that is in the provision of outdoor play equipment. In this post, we’ll look at the positive ways you can use your outdoor environment to help your pupils’ mental health.

Getting them outside is the first step

The first way to improve mental health is to get the pupils outside more. Getting sunlight on your skin, even if it is cloudy, is the human body’s main source of Vitamin D. Vitamin D helps with mental health because it releases serotonin in the brain which improves mood and has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety. It can even have a calming effect on children with ADHD.

One way you can extend the time children spend outdoors is to develop an outdoor learning area where lessons can be delivered in the open air. This can be achieved by installing outdoor curriculum playground equipment which is designed to cover most subject areas including maths, English and science.

With a wide range of equipment to choose from and catering for pupils of all key stages, this is a great way to get pupils out of a stressful classroom and into a stimulating environment that will enhance their mental wellbeing.

Improve mood through outdoor play

According to the Mental Health Foundation, the best way to increase positive moods in children is to have them participate in low-intensity, aerobic exercise for 30 minutes a day, three to five days per week. To fully benefit from this, the activity needs to be done over the long term.

Doing this will make children more alert and enthusiastic and help keep more serious mental health issues from developing. Another benefit for schools is that it can improve behaviour in classrooms which, in turn, can lead to improvements in pupils’ progress and attainment.

One way to encourage participation in low-intensity aerobic exercise it to provide pupils with the opportunities to take part. At ESP Play we have a huge range of equipment designed for that very purpose. Our playground markings, for example, give pupils exactly what they need to take part in an array of fast paced team sports and other aerobic activities whilst, for the adventurous kids, we have climbing walls and even Parkour (freerunning) equipment.

Reducing stress

As every teacher knows, poor behaviour disrupts learning and slows the progress of the whole class. This is why behaviour is such a big focus for Ofsted. The Public Health England report explains that “Physical activity has been linked to improved classroom behaviour across the whole school. Notable among the benefits are improved pro-social behaviour and peer relationships, with resulting reductions in disruptive classroom behaviour.”

If the reduction in disruptive behaviour is due to physical activity that improves social relationships, then it makes sense to give pupils more opportunities to do this during their free time. Most outdoor playground equipment is designed to help pupils play together in an active way, whether this is done through climbing equipment, sports equipment or roleplay equipment. Installing these in your play area could have positive benefits on behaviour and progress.

Helping with depression and anxiety

Physical activity is also very helpful for children who have been diagnosed with depression and anxiety. It is often prescribed as part of their treatment. One of the things you can do to help these particular students, perhaps as part of their differentiated provision, is to give them increased access to outdoor play or outdoor learning.

Some of the best equipment for doing this would be our Trim Trails. In order to successfully negotiate through the Trim Trail would give students plenty of the physical exercise they need whilst enabling them to gain positive feelings of achievement when they successfully negotiate the trail.

As our Trim Trails have interchangeable components, you can quickly and easily make the course more challenging as time goes by, increasing the amount of physical activity they do and the sense of wellbeing they get at the end.  

For those children suffering from social anxieties or who have problems integrating with other students, installing an outdoor Allgo Gym might be a worthwhile investment. The Centre For Health at John Moores University recently did research on the benefits of outdoor gyms and showed that those who took part with friends felt increasingly more confident after using them.

An added perk

Introducing outdoor play equipment not only helps to prevent and treat mental health problems, it also has a positive impact on every student’s cognitive abilities. In a recent article in the Psychiatric Times, it was shown that pupils who took part in regular physical activity have increased attention spans and can process information quicker than children who do not. Even a single, twenty-minute session of aerobic exercise was seen to make a difference – which, of course, is about the length of the average morning break time.  


It’s amazing to think that so much can be done to help students’ mental health and wellbeing simply by getting them outside and being more active. The key to success lies in providing your pupils with the opportunities to do so and the equipment needed to motivate them. For details of the equipment we can provide for your school, take a look at our products page.