There has never been a more important time for physical education (PE), school sport and health-related activity in schools. Research confirms that up to 50% of all seven year-olds do not get enough exercise and one in three young people leave primary school overweight or obese. From an early age, lifelong patterns of positive behaviour and involvement can be gained through participation in high quality physical activity and play.
Research proves that well designed outdoor play areas can help combat these issues and so we have put together out top 5 tips to develop your play area to help any school thinking about making a positive change.
Informal and structured physical activity is essential for the mental, physical, emotional and social development of every child. This type of activity develops fundamental movement skills and coordination skills, social skills linked to communication and language, and creativity and cooperation – all essential tools to aid successful learning in the curriculum and beyond.
It is very important to create an environment that offer sustainability. The facilities and knowledge of how to use the facilities correctly are the key to creating a positive whole school impact that is sustainable and cross curricular. That is why having the right playground is so important. Here are five key points to help maximise your playground space to inspire young people to undertake physical activity:
Tip 1. What is your objective? What are you trying to achieve with this investment?
Does the development of your playground form part of your school improvement plan? Is this investment recognised as a priority by the whole school and local community. To create a sustainable impact the school and community must have ownership and responsibility on how they will use this facility to add value to learning and the development of young people. Teachers must be able to identify and evidence how they will develop and improve the following points:
- Participation in daily physical activity for every child
- Leadership skills
- Communication and language skills
- Social skills
- Team work
- Fundamental movement skills
- Achievement in Physical Education lessons
A needs analysis of your playground will help inform you of what improvements can be made. The analysis should focus on gathering and reviewing the information, consulting end users and key stakeholders, and establishing priority requirements. It is important that you are inclusive throughout the process and make a special effort to understand the requirements of children with special educational needs (SEN) and disabilities to incorporate these into your plan. Consider the following key questions: How well is the space used? Are there spaces between existing buildings that have always been under-utilised? What is it currently used for? Who is using it? Who is not using it? What would the pupils like it to be used for?
Tip 2. A School Playground should not be the same as a Community Park.
It is too easy to simply put a put a piece of equipment in a school playground and think job done. A community play park is to simply go and climb and school playground is a place to play but also learn at the same time. Learning should not just start at the classroom door, it should begin at the school gates. The outdoor resources available to schools offer a fantastic opportunity to take learning beyond the classroom. Ask yourself; does this equipment have any relevance and purpose to curriculum? Does it offer any wider benefits to just play? Can I evidence this equipment as adding value to the school improvement plan?
Any investment should yield a return. What educational return is your playground offering?
Tip 3. Team effort
Engaging the right people at this early stage will ensure they are committed to the project. The key stakeholders that should be consulted from the very start are: governors, headteachers, teachers, teaching assistants, lunchtime supervisors, parents and pupils. They can be consulted in a variety of ways including: meetings and class discussions; school sports council(s); playground committee; questionnaires; observation studies and pupil drawings.
Tip 4. Choose a qualified contractor that understands education
Appoint a qualified and knowledgeable contractor to work with you to check the feasibility of the components and configurations selected. Make sure they understand education and the purpose of your investment. Don be sucked into just picking equipment from a catalogue. Make sure the design is bespoke to your requirements and objectives.
Tip 5. Teacher Development
To make your investment sustainable you must ensure teachers, lunchtime supervisors, assistants and others understand how to use the playground for break and lunch time activities but more importantly how to benefit from the outdoor resource for curriculum time. Engage in an accredited CPD programme that supports the use of the playground across the curriculum.
Research confirms the following:
- Children are better prepared for learning following participation in high quality physical activities
- Children are less fidgety in class following participation in high quality physical activity
- 80% of children are kinaesthetic learners
- Development of Fundamental Movement skills improve confidence and movement competence and therefore increases participation