The new playground now provides staff and pupils with opportunities to cover all aspects of the EYFS curriculum, with age-appropriate facilities providing flexible-use resources and open-ended activities which are suitable for all pupils.



Part of the Park Federation Academy Trust, Western House Academy is a three-form entry primary school, with nursery, located in Cippenham, Slough. The academy’s EYFS manager originally contacted ESP Play via live chat, wanting advice about how to improve the reception playground equipment so that children had facilities that covered all areas of EYFS learning.

The Challenge

Although Western House had a large outdoor learning area for its reception pupils, the academy wanted to make much better use of it. The existing space was predominantly a large expanse of grey tarmac used mainly for wheeled toys. Large planters, which dominated its centre, made it difficult to manage learning and play activities and much of the existing equipment was dated and needed upgrading. In addition, a lack of purpose-built outdoor furniture meant the academy was relying on old classroom furniture which wasn’t suitable for external use.

The Brief

Principal, Coral Snowden, and EYFS Manager, Kim McLaughlin, wanted the entire playground area redeveloped. The large tarmacked area needed to be broken up into discrete zones for different learning and play activities, a grassed area was to be transformed into a nature zone and an existing canopy, built onto the side of the school, was to be redeveloped so that continuous provision could flow naturally between the classroom and outdoor environments. Overall, the area needed to provide children with learning and play opportunities that covered all areas of the EYFS curriculum.

The Project

The project began with the ESP team undertaking a comprehensive site survey, looking at the potential the site offered as well as for any challenges that might present themselves. Our consultant then met with the school to discuss their specific needs and to offer suggestions about appropriate equipment.

Following this, ESP Play created a design incorporating the academy’s requirements and sent this for approval. The overall design included a redeveloped canopy area, open-ended and flexible zones, natural spaces, climbing challenges and roleplay options. This produced a sustainable, outdoor learning environment that Western House children could enjoy and benefit from for years to come. It would enable teachers to plan activities that moved freely from the classroom to the playground while offering far more opportunities for EYFS appropriate learning and play.

The ESP Play team stripped out old equipment and removed the obstructing planters to open up the space. A variety of new surfaces were then laid, including resin-bound gravel, rubber mulch, artificial grass and block paving. These would facilitate the installation of different types of equipment and activity zones, while providing children with a wider range of sensory textures.

Once the groundwork was completed, various playground features and equipment were installed. These included a roadway, a wild area consisting of grass with an interwoven rubber mulch pathway, a mud kitchen, raised woodland hut and magnetic water walls.

The canopy space was developed into an inside-outside, all-weather classroom for literacy and numeracy and to enable differentiated challenge, portable freestanding trays were provided. To improve opportunities for gross motor development, an existing climb and slide structure was replaced by an age-appropriate Tangled unit that offers a high degree of challenge but without the supervision required by the old play tower.

The results

The redevelopment of Western House Academy’s reception playground took place as planned, on schedule and without disruption to the school. The new design has transformed the outdoor area. We have maximised the use of space by installing a range of discrete zones. These give reception pupils a safe, inviting and stimulating play area in which learning and play activities can be delivered in a more coordinated fashion.

The new playground now provides staff and pupils with opportunities to cover all aspects of the EYFS curriculum, with age-appropriate facilities providing flexible-use resources and open-ended activities which are suitable for all pupils.

The outcome

As a result of the playground installation, there has been a tremendous improvement in reception provision at Western House. ESP Play has taken a space which was tired, sparsely resourced and disjointed and transformed it into an area of purpose-built zones, equipped with age-appropriate, state of the art playground equipment and surfacing.

The new playground better suits the needs of reception age pupils and provides staff with a wider range of resources to deliver the EYFS curriculum. As a result, pupils now and in the future will have far more opportunities to learn, play and develop.

Overall, the academy was very impressed with the whole process undertaken by ESP Play. Principal, Coral Snowden, said, “This is a clear signal of how important we believe it is to build early momentum and confidence in these critical early years. This area is something we have been working towards for a long time and I am delighted it is now a reality.”