Gorton Primary School wanted to create an outdoor area that matched the standard and ambition of the school buildings. It aimed to provide, from the outset, a safe, inclusive outdoor space that provided a wide range of opportunities for play, learning and sports and which consisted of high standard equipment that would endure.
School: Gorton Primary School
Location: Levenshulme, Manchester
Located in Levenshulme, Manchester, Gorton Primary school opened in 2018. After spending its first two years in temporary accommodation, it will move into brand new, state of the art premises in September 2020.
As part of the project, the headteacher and governors, together with the sponsor, Vantage Academies Trust, wanted to create an outdoor area that matched the standard and ambition of the school buildings. It aimed to provide, from the outset, a safe, inclusive outdoor space that provided a wide range of opportunities for play, learning and sports and which consisted of high standard equipment that would endure. With a significant budget to build the playground from scratch, the school carried out detailed due diligence, assessing a range of playground contractors before choosing ESP Play.
There were several challenges to this particular build, not least the fact that in order to be ready for the September 2020 opening, the playground needed to be installed during the pandemic lockdown. However, with online and socially distanced meetings with the school staff and with the school temporarily in different accommodation, this went ahead on schedule.
The other main challenge was the scale of the installation. This was a large area, the length of the entire school, which had to accommodate three separate playgrounds, nursery, KS1 and KS2, each equipped with many types of apparatus.
ESP Play was asked to design and install a modern, well-equipped playground that fully catered for the needs of a growing, 3 to 11 primary school. It had to provide discrete areas for Nursery, KS1 and KS2, enabling children of each age group to play separately and safely; it needed to offer opportunities for age-appropriate play, learning and sports while being both accessible and inclusive.
ESP Play started the project by carrying out a comprehensive site survey before working with the school to design a playground that met its ambitious objectives. The design incorporated the three separate playground areas required by the school and each of these was comprised of a variety of activity zones to further increase safety, accessibility and inclusivity.
The nursery area featured a thermoplastic roadway on which the children could use tricycles, an early years’ wobbly bridge, balance beam and mini-challenge net, mountain and mines tunnel, wigwam, storytelling chair with mushroom seats, planters and trellises, magnetic water wall and an adjacent water tray. All-weather, artificial grass landscaping was installed within the roadway and around the challenge net to provide a more inviting setting.
The Key Stage 1 play area was installed with slightly more challenging playground equipment, including early years’ jungle bars, spinning log, bespoke ‘Tangled’ rope and beam apparatus and a traversing wall. It also featured a block paving roadway with bridge, artificial grass landscaping, trellis and planters against a green fence, large play hut and a magnetic water wall with water tray.
The Key Stage 2 play area was also designed to incorporate many of the school’s outdoor sports facilities. A key feature was a mini football pitch created using playground markings and sectioned off from the rest of the playground using picket fencing for increased safety. A multi-skills zone was also installed, comprising a number of target, stepper, jumping and exercise markings. A basketball net and panel, together with basketball markings, were placed at one end of the playground while, at the other, three picnic tables and a large octagonal shelter were installed. The shelter contains seating and can be used for outdoor lessons as well as for use during playtimes. The KS2 playground was also partially landscaped across its entire length using artificial grass, while shrubs have been planted behind the octagonal shelter to help shield it from the wind.
The completed project has provided Gorton Primary with the ideal outdoor space for all three groups of pupils with plenty of opportunities to learn, have fun, develop skills, socialise and participate in sport. It means when the new school building opens for the first time in September 2020, the playground will match the building in providing for the needs of the pupils. It also means that pupils can be ensured of high-quality provision outside and that learning can easily transfer from one space to the other.
Overall, the school and the Vanguard Academy Trust are extremely pleased with the new playground. The playground design, the high-quality equipment and the standard of the installation have delighted staff, governors and parents. The biggest thumbs up, however, came from the children who have been lucky enough to give it a try before the school actually opens. They loved it and can’t wait for September.