Playground Design and Fundraising Ideas for Schools During Coronavirus

If your school has been considering a new playground, the Coronavirus lockdown might provide the time to plan your new outdoor space and even do a spot of online fundraising. With the majority of pupils and their parents at home looking for things to occupy their time, there’s a lot of opportunity for pupil and parent involvement in your project. Here are some ideas you might want to consider.

literacy and phonics

Designing your new school playground

There’s a lot to think about when designing a new playground for schools and nurseries. Some things, of course, need a specialist’s view, like whether groundwork needs to be carried out for drainage before new surfacing is laid. On the other hand, there are plenty of things that pupils and parents can get involved in, like choosing their favourite pieces of play apparatus and thinking of different kinds of zones that they might want to play in.

As most children are absent during the Coronavirus pandemic, you can set homework tasks that encourage pupil involvement in your playground redevelopment planning. One interesting project would be to get them to design their ideal playground. You could start by creating a downloadable outline of your playground, so they have an idea of the shape and size of the space and you could then ask them to visit our products page so they can find the outdoor play equipment that most appeals to them.

To make things more realistic and challenging, ask them to choose the types of zone they want to include, such as a nature area, climbing zone, a place for sport and PE, a dining and seating area, space for roleplay and creative fun, a sensory zone, etc. and then ask them to select equipment for each zone.

Once this has been done, the pupils can then create their design in colour, label the zones and write a list of the equipment they want to go in it. They can then email the project to their teacher. If you want to give even more challenge, ask the pupils to create a 3D design and send in a photo. To raise the profile of the project, you can even make it into a competition and give prizes for the best designs.

The benefit of this is that it gives school leaders a clear idea of how pupils of different ages, abilities and interests want to use the outdoor space. This helps you create an inclusive playground with a range of zones that appeal to all children. It also ensures that you spend your budget effectively, purchasing apparatus that you know will engage pupils and be well used.

It is not just pupils who you can get on board, either. With many parents forced to stay at home, they’ll have more time to answer questionnaires about what they want to see in the school playground. You could also set up an online playground working group, with parents and teachers conducting discussions over video chat.

New playground fundraising

Just because schools are closed for most pupils doesn’t mean fundraising activities for your new playground have to cease. Since the Corona outbreak began, millions of people are keeping in touch with friends and loved ones using video chat apps like Skype and Zoom. Social media is full of examples of how these are being creatively used. It is possible, for example, for your school to hold an online talent competition or even a school band performance where the various musicians each play from home. For fundraising purposes, you can ask parents to contribute via platforms like ParentPay or even set up a GoFundMe account.

Aside from using video and live streaming, there are other ways to raise money during the lockdown. You could, for example, ask the parent-teacher association to host a ‘buy now, receive later’ bun sale. Alternatively, you could hold a bric-a-brac auction where parents pledge to pay for items once things return to normal.

Finally, with your pupils having quite a bit more free time, there is a lot of opportunity to undertake sponsored activities, with people paying their sponsorship online. Of course, with pupils’ movement being restricted, they’ll need to come up with some inventive ideas about what they can do – but that just adds to the fun and challenge of it.

Conclusion

Though Coronavirus is causing major disruption, schools looking to redevelop their playgrounds have the potential to bring something positive from the experience. Undertaking design and fundraising during the lockdown can unite the school community to achieve something that will, once the pandemic is over, benefit everyone. Hopefully, the ideas given here will be useful.

If you are considering a new playground, visit our Free Playground Design Service page. For design inspiration, make sure you check out the video while you’re there.

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Making the Most of Your Playground Design – Ideas to Consider

Is your school or nursery taking full advantage of your outdoor spaces? Does your playground fulfil all the things you want it to? For establishments looking to develop outdoor provision, there are plenty of ways to make improvements. To give you some idea of what it is possible to achieve through playground design, here are some points you may wish to consider.

literacy and phonics

Playground design lets you optimise outdoor spaces

Sometimes, it is difficult to visualise the potential you have to transform your outdoor space. Anyone who has watched the BBC TV programme ‘Your Home Made Perfect’ will have seen how the show’s architects used virtual reality to remove all the walls in a house, letting owners see how the entire space could be reimagined. Although you might not have virtual reality technology at hand, starting your playground design by creating a blank plan of your outdoor areas, removing existing features like walls or fences, enables you to see how the entire space could be put to better use.

Even if you require development on a smaller scale, there might still be quirky, unused or forgotten areas that can be given a new lease of life with the right equipment, perhaps installing wonky mirrors onto walls, putting a storytelling circle on a grassy corner or filling an empty recess with a shelter.

Designing an all-weather playground

To get optimum use out of your playground, you want children to be able to enjoy it all year round. The starting point for making this happen is having the right playground surfacing installed. While different uses can require different types of surface, modern surfacing materials like resin-bound gravel, artificial grass, wetpour and rubber mulch are all better suited to wet weather play than puddle-prone asphalt and tarmac and muddy grass. Though even grassed areas can be used in the wet when they have protective grass matting to stop them churning up. By introducing surfaces like these, with excellent drainage, you reduce the chances of slippage and make the playground more inviting to play in, even during a shower.

Of course, there are always children who hate wet weather and days when the rain will be heavy. However, there are still things you can do to make the playground useable. Playground shelters, including some with windbreaking side panels and built-in seating, offer places for the rain-averse to sit in and for everyone else to congregate during a downpour. You can also install sail shades close to the side of the school too, and these will protect against both the rain and the sunshine. Another solution is to install play huts for smaller groups to occupy.

Designing for variety and inclusion

The key to getting the most from your playground is providing variety for your pupils. Today, the solution for achieving this comes through designing a playground with a range of play zones, each providing a different type of activity. Our free playground design service ensures your playground fulfils all the things you want from it. You can create spaces for play, PE and learning while providing inclusive and engaging activities that are fun, healthy and meet the needs of all pupils.

The type of equipment you install depends upon the needs, interests and ages of your students, and we always advocate getting your pupils and parents involved in the decision-making process. Not only does this help you install the equipment the pupils want; it also means you’ll have a more enthusiastic group of fundraisers.

Schools and nurseries have a lot of options when it comes to the types of playground equipment they can install, however, when it comes to zones, the most popular tend to be an area for playing sport and teaching PE, an outdoor classroom, a playground game area (for hopscotch, tag, skipping, etc.) a challenge and risk zone with exciting climbing apparatus, a water and sand messy play area, a creative area (for art, roleplay, music, dance, etc.), a sensory area and a quiet nature area.

Of course, as most schools and nurseries have limited space and budgets, clever design can be used to make some zones multi-purpose. A quiet nature area, for example, can also be used as a storytelling or reading corner and a place to study plants, insects and the weather.

Funding for playground development

Developing a playground can be expensive and often requires schools to apply for funding and to raise funds themselves. However, there are a variety of grants that you may be eligible to apply for and here at ESP Play, we can help you find them. At the same time, Parent Teacher Associations do a terrific job at fundraising and, over the years, we have seen many raise substantial amounts to help transform their school and nursery playgrounds.

Conclusion

Though the playground is one of a school or nursery’s most valuable assets, it is often under-utilised. Careful playground design can help you make the most of it, ensuring optimal use of space, accessible all year round, while providing a broad range of learning and play activities that suit the needs and preferences of your children.

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Sport Premium Survey – How Double Funding Has Affected Schools

In July, the Department for Education released the findings of a major survey looking at the impact of the Primary PE and Sport Premium. Over 3,000 schools took part in the survey which sought to discover how the premium has been used and what its effects have been since the amount was doubled in 2017. In this post, we’ll look at some of the main findings of the survey.

Who decides how the premium is spent?

The general response is that the decisions on how to spend the sport premium are shared by a number of stakeholders. While the headteacher, unsurprisingly, is involved in 78% of decisions, the majority of schools also involve senior leaders (58%) and other teachers (51%). School governors (41%) also play a significant role. Pupils and business managers each take part in 33% of schools whereas parents are only involved in 6% of decisions.

Most useful sources of advice

Schools were asked where they got advice on how to best use their premium and were then asked to rank the top three sources. Those considered as giving the most useful guidance were local PE and sports networks (58%), other primary schools (40%), coaches and sports companies (29%). The least useful were governors (3%), Sport England (9%), local authorities (10%) and the Association for PE (10%). Other frequently used sources included local secondaries, the Youth Sport Trust, the County Sport Partnership and DfE guidance.

Limited increase in curriculum time

The impact of the doubling of the sport premium has had a minimal impact on how much curriculum time is devoted to PE in primary schools. In almost two-thirds of schools, there has been no increase whatsoever across either Key Stage 1 or 2. Only 8% of schools have added an extra hour or more of PE to the timetable and just over a fifth of schools (23% in KS1 and 22% in KS2) have increased time by up to half an hour.

How money is spent on the PE curriculum

The spending of the extra sport premium funding on curricular PE generally falls into three categories. Around a quarter of schools use it on introducing new PE activities, another quarter use it to enhance the quality of existing provision (e.g., more teachers, extended sessions and teaching deeper skills), while the remaining schools have done a mixture of both.

Interestingly, those schools with the highest proportion of FSM students were more likely to introduce new PE activities while larger primaries were more inclined to improve the quality of provision.

Extracurricular spending

The use of the sport premium for extracurricular activities differed significantly to how it was spent on curriculum PE. Here, 33% of schools had used it specifically to introduced new types of sports activity with 54% using it for a mix of new and existing activities. Surprisingly, only 9% have focused on enhancing the quality of the extracurricular sporting activities since 2016/17.

Equipment top of the shopping list

The survey also asked schools to submit details of the specific things that they did with the funding. Top of the list was investment in new equipment, something 92% of schools used part of their funding for. This was followed by training existing staff (88%), increasing extracurricular sport (83%) and increasing physical activity across the school day (75%). Other popular areas of spending included increasing involvement with sport, transport to fixtures and employing sports coaches.

Perceived impact

Respondents to the survey were asked to give their views on how the doubling of the sports premium had impacted their school. Over half of all respondents believed that the profile of sport and PE had significantly improved while the percentage of pupils doing 30 minutes of physical activity per day had increased a lot in 42% of schools and a little in a further 40%. Similar increases were seen in the level of competitive sport being offered to pupils.

Most respondents thought all children benefitted from increased physical exercise, be that in curriculum PE (66% of respondents), extracurricular sport (73%) or sports competitions (63%). The children seen to have benefitted most through increased participation were children with SEND (42% of respondents) and FSM/PP students (41%). There was no difference between boys and girls.

Key priorities for future spending

Health and wellbeing are clearly the most important priorities for schools when it comes to investing the sport premium in the future. By far the most popular responses (both 50%) were finding better ways to engage the least active children and to reduce obesity and promote active lifestyles.

Other important priorities were upskilling staff, using PE to improve whole school development and providing more extracurricular and competitive sports. Although increasing activity levels is the top priority, by contrast, only 13% of schools wanted to use the premium to extend curricular PE time.

Conclusion

The Primary PE and Sport Premium survey has produced some interesting results about how the new double funding has been used and its impact. Overall, it seems to have brought a general improvement in curricular and extracurricular provision though this is limited and inconsistent. Hopefully, the results of the survey can assist other schools to use their sport premium more effectively.

If you are looking for better ways to invest your funding, take a look at our Sport Premium page.

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How to Design an EYFS Playground

Giving children the opportunity to participate in free play has been shown to accelerate their development, helping them learn important new skills and widening their understanding of the world. For nurseries and EYFS providers, one way you can facilitate and encourage free play is to design your outdoor spaces in a way that motivates children to participate. In this post, we’ll look at the best ways to design your EYFS playground.

Principles of EYFS playground design

When creating your EYFS play area you’ll need to provide a variety of stimulating activities which cater for a range of needs and which offer children the opportunity to develop their cognitive, physical, social, and creative skills. The most successful way of achieving this is designing an outdoor space with different free play areas or zones.

Designing in this way allows you to better manage the activities that take place in each zone. It also improves safety, as activities that can be hazardous when taking place in the same space can be kept apart. An additional benefit of a zoned playground is that adults need to intervene less, enabling the children to focus on the play that’s so important to their development.

Common types of EYFS free play zone

There is no set rule about the types of zones you should create in your playground. Indeed, your choices may be dependent on the children you cater for, the nature of the space you have available and your budget. Here, however, are some of the most popular EYFS zones we create for our customers.

1. Active play zone

Physical activity encourages children to play together and thus creates opportunities to develop social skills. At the same time, the physical activity, in itself, helps to develop physical skills while improving fitness. EYFS active play zones are often kitted out with popular pieces of equipment. These include play towers, especially those that have slides, climbing nets, ropes and bridges, and low-height, Trim Trail obstacle course equipment.

These structures can be Interspersed with a range of fun playground markings, such as the mini roadway, which comes complete with road signs, roundabouts and zebra crossings.

2. Creative zones

Outdoor Playground Music Equipment

Developing children’s creativity is fundamental to bringing on their social and cognitive skills and this makes the creative zone a key part of the EYFS playground. Schools and nurseries are spoiled for choice when it comes to choosing creative playground equipment. Designed to help children explore their imaginations in safe but unstructured ways, these include body-warping mirrors, log bridges and tunnels, play huts, shop kiosks, wigwams and wooden trains. Add a box of props and costumes and, suddenly, your playground can become anywhere their imagination takes them.

For more artistic pursuits, there are also a range of painting, drawing and mark-making tables available, as well as stand up panels. One of the most popular creative pieces is the outdoor musical orchestra - composed of a range of fun to play on, no-skills-necessary, musical instruments. These include musical chimes, drainpipe drums, washboards and xylophones.

3. Sand, mud and water zones

Tactile materials such as sand, mud and water are ideal for children as they can be played with in so many different ways. From making sand castles and moats to baking mud pies, they are not only great fun, they also encourage kids to play together while letting children learn how these materials can be used, manipulated and combined. Water and sand play equipment lets you create the ultimate sensory play area for EYFS and with mud kitchens, splash pools and even magnetic water walls to choose from, there’s an opportunity to create one of the most popular zones in your playground.

4. Nature area

Putting a nature zone in your nursery or EYFS playground fulfils two important functions. Firstly, it creates a quiet space where children can be calm and relaxed and, secondly, it provides the opportunity for children to develop a love of and appreciation for nature.

Quiet outdoor spaces can be beneficial for children who feel anxious or upset and need to get away from the busier areas. When this happens in a green space, that calming effect can be even better. Quiet spaces are also ideal places where the whole group can sit in the sunshine and listen to stories being read to them.

A nature zone can be created through the purchase of wooden planters and trellises. These can be used to section off the space from the rest of the playground and can be filled with flowers, climbers and shrubs. You can then use butterfly boxes, insect habitats, ladybird towers and bird tables to encourage bugs and birds to visit – giving children access to their very own mini nature reserve. There’s a wide range of nature equipment you can use to make your nature zone enchanting for younger children.

5. Use the right surfacing

With little people doing so many different activities it’s important that you remember to include playground surfacing when creating your design. Sometimes, it’s a good idea to use different surfaces for each zone so that the children get the most benefit. A nature zone, for example, will want to be lawned, whereas an active play zone is perhaps best served by a cushioned, wetpour surface. With artificial grass, block paving, grass matting, resin bound gravel, rubber mulch and wetpour surfacing all available, there is a solution for every zone you may want.

Conclusion

EYFS free play equipment enables every youngster to learn while they play. The most effective way to put it to good use is by creating a zoned playground where there are discrete areas for specific activities. This helps to keep children safe while providing the stimulus they need to participate and learn. For more information about our range of EYFS playground equipment, visit our products page or call us on 01282 43 44 45.

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Top 10 Playground Markings for EYFS

A great deal of the learning that takes place during early years education is done through play. This post will look at a selection of playground markings that are both fun for young children to play on but which also help them with a range of basic skills. Covering literacy, numeracy, time, direction, weather and road safety, here are our top ten playground markings for EYFS.

1. Alpha Clock Target

The multi-purpose alpha clock target is ideal for taking literacy and numeracy outdoors to help children learn the alphabet, basic numbers and the position of the hours on an analogue clock. It can also be used for throwing practice and to develop coordination skills.

There are numerous games that can be devised for this marking, such as standing in the centre and throwing bean bags towards a letter or getting children to run around the circle and when someone shouts for them to stop, they call out the number they land on.

2. Mathematical Number Grid

Installing a mathematical number grid playground marking is a great way to help children learn to count up to 100 and discover the relationship between numbers. There are lots of games that can be played on the grid, such as stepping up in multiples, standing on odds and evens, counting on using dice – you can even chalk on some snakes and ladders.

3. The Offset-Stepper

The offset stepper combines traditional hopscotch with number learning and physical agility. Children can count up to and down from 12 in single or multiple numbers, having to hop, jump, step and side shuffle as they go.

4. Phonetic Spots

Using some of the most common phonetic letter combinations, the fun phonetic spots marking is a great way to begin to teach basic reading skills. Just get the children to land on a spot and shout out the correct sound. Once they have mastered individual sounds, stand on two spots and combine them. For more advanced games, stand on a spot and say a word that has the sound in it.

5. Roadway

The roadway is a large marking that is excellent for getting children participating in role play as it creates a road system in your playground that children can take journeys on. It can include parking bays, a petrol station, a roundabout, shops and zebra crossings.

Aside from creative play, it is also useful for teaching road safety. Children can learn the safe places to cross a road, how to stop, look and listen and find out which side of the road traffic travels on - all in the safety of the playground.

6. Weather Symbols & Days

winter weather

Featuring the days of the school week (Monday to Friday) and the weather symbols for sunshine, rain, cloud and snow, the weather playground marking is a good way to help children to recognise the spellings of the days of the week and learn about different types of weather.

7. Compass Multi-marking

The compass multi-marking enables children to learn the basic compass points, north, south, east and west, together with the more advanced directions, NE, SE, SW and NW. The compass points are installed accurately in playgrounds so that children can use them to learn about their environment. For example, they can discover that the canteen is to the north and the exits are to the south. They can even use it to look at things like the way the sun travels through the sky during the day or to find clues in a playground treasure hunt.

8. Compass Hopscotch

Another compass variation is the compass hopscotch marking. Aside from learning the compass points, pupils can practice their knowledge by being asked to follow directions as they play the game, for example, start at the south, then head west.

9. Footwork Vowels

This literacy-focused marking is designed to help children learn the vowels, a key skill needed when they start to read. It can be used for games where children call out a vowel so that their friends have to stand on it or for teachers to call out vowels in rapid succession so that the children have to step quickly to keep up. This is also a great marking to help with balance and agility.

10. Letter Stepper

The letter stepper marking lets children follow the alphabet all the way from A to Z and learn different colours as they go. As a stepper, it’s good for developing balance and can be used in a range of fun ways that combine literacy and numeracy, for example, step on every second letter and call it out or find the letters of your name and count how many letters it has.

Conclusion

As you can see, our top ten EYFS playground markings don’t just provide opportunities for lots of fun, they can also help children learn about letters, sounds, numbers, directions, time, days of the week and weather types. In addition, they can be used to bring on physical skills such as balance, coordination and agility as well as fostering social skills as the pupils learn to play together.

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