Natural Play Areas within Schools

Does your school encourage nature play?

Recent reports by RSPB have raised concerns over the current lack of connection between children and the natural world. These reports are as a result of important and extensive research about the amount of time children spend in natural environments.

The information collected from a sample of 1,200 children shows that only 21% are connected with nature on a level that is satisfactory. This was based upon questions answered in 4 specific areas: enjoyment of nature; empathy for creatures; sense of oneness; sense of responsibility.

For more information on this research, take a look at the RSPB report: “Connecting with nature”.


ESP and the provision of nature based play.

Connecting with nature should be part of a child’s daily life, whether that involves collecting leaves, feeding animals or planting seeds. ESP fully support the use of nature in the playground environment and through the inclusion of nature based playground equipment we help children connect with their natural surroundings.

Connecting children with nature has a number of important benefits towards the development of children, including:

  • Health and wellbeing – The outdoors encourages increased physical activity.
  • Education – A hands-on approach gives children a better understanding of nature and the world that surrounds them.
  • Personal and social skills – Nature inspires positivity, communication and group activity while giving children the opportunity to discuss their discoveries.

Our Nature Play range provides children with the equipment to investigate, explore and learn about their natural surroundings. Each product is designed to encourage children to nurture and care for the world around them; plant and watch seeds grow; feed and nurture different animals and present their findings to their friends.


Take a look at our 5 recommendations for natural play.

1)   Digging pits with trellis screens – Ideal for encouraging children to plant seeds and maintain their growth. The trellis screens allow climbing plants to thrive, creating beautiful aesthetics while teaching the children about the concepts of growth.

2)   Planter with Perspex panel – This large planter includes a transparent front, allowing children to witness root growth beneath the surface and watch their plants grow over time.

3)   Bird table – A classic. The bird table allows children to feed birds and encounter different species as they come and go.

4)   Butterfly box – This product attracts butterflies, keeps them warm and allows the children to see and inspect them in close proximity.

5)   Insect Habitat – Allows children to discover the amazing world of insects as they collect and discuss their findings

Call ESP today on 01282 43 44 45 to discuss how we can improve your schools connection with nature.
NHS Logo - Playground Equipment

NHS Invest In Schools

NHS south west Essex invested £5 per child for every child within their primary and secondary schools on an intervention from ESP focused on PE, physical activity and teacher development. This intervention was used as a preventative measure to combatting obesity within their local area.  The theory behind the investment from the NHS concluded that children were in the school playground every day and therefore it offered a tremendous opportunity to capture the imagination of young people and embed an appetite to participate in high quality daily physical activity.  This subtle approach enabled young people to participate without any inhibitions and enjoy the experience of play, multi-sports and a range of high quality physical activities.

ESP has spent years working in education; establishing strong effective links and positive evidence on how the school playground can play an important role in improving attainment; raising standards and promoting healthy high quality physical activity for every child.

Research confirms that if young people enjoy the experience of participating in PE and physical activities there is a very good chance they will enjoy a life-long participation in a healthy physical activity.

We believe that both playgrounds and staff act as catalysts for change. Appropriately trained staff within appropriate facilities can have an important positive impact on pupil perceptions of the value of activity and ultimately the amount of activity in which the children take part. Primary schools continue to report a need for support that allows them to develop their confidence and competence. They want to ensure that they continue to improve their knowledge and expertise in motivating pupils to be active and to help them to develop a range of physical skills which will prepare them for future active lives.

Teachers have routinely reported a positive impact on the range of activities undertaken by primary aged children using the ESP playground interventions.  Many now take part in different activities before, during and after school, suggesting that children have been introduced to activities previously not available. This allowed children to practice and master new skills.

Every child has a right to a physical education alongside a healthy lifestyle.  Physical education and sport is a very powerful tool and has the ability to change young people’s lives for the better. PE, sport and physical activity -if delivered properly – can support every step of a child’s development.

We work with schools throughout the UK and internationally in providing long lasting facilities and high quality teacher development programmes. The teacher training ensures that the expertise comes in-house and provides the professional development necessary to gain the knowledge and understanding on the application and effective use of the school playground.

We can work in partnership with your school to create a sustainable school improvement model and evidence where PE, high quality physical activity through the use of the playground can raise standards and make a real difference to the lives of young people.

Please call us on 01282 43 44 45 to discuss how we can work in partnership with your school.

High Praise From Longview Primary School, Merseyside

ESP are delighted to have just received an email from the head teacher of Longview Primary school in Knowsley, Merseyside, who have just received installation of 2 large pergolas and a range of playground furniture items. The school are delighted with the items and commented on the professionalism of our installation staff. We are always grateful for the feedback from schools, it makes the hard work extremely rewarding.


Dear Nick… Just a short note to thank you and your team for the installation of two large shaded pergolas with seating and planters at Longview School. We are really pleased with the pergolas and would especially like to mention your installation team who were fantastic, totally professional and a credit to the company.  Nothing was too much trouble for them. Our personal thanks to you also for your prompt and personal attention. Many thanks once again.

Amanda Casey – Headteacher – Longview Primary


Concerns Surrounding Activity Level – Our Response

Recent research reports have again shown growing concerns surrounding children’s physical activity level in school time. The report shows that the increasing numbers of children who are not participating in the required amount of physical activity is currently at a figure of 49%. This is remarkably high and it should set off alarm bells in the minds of the public health sector.

This serves as a healthy reminder of what Baroness Sue Campbell had to say back in January of this year. She confessed her worry for the ‘physical illiteracy’ of children as they progress into secondary school. She stated that many children felt overwhelmed with the sporting curriculum at secondary level due to the lack of proper physical education at primary school.

ESP have been discussing these concerns for years. Through independent research carried out by a number of UK universities, we proved that there was much room for improvements in the physical activity taking place in schools. We worked in partnership with Roehampton University and Leeds Metropoliton University at 163 schools in SW Essex to provide the necessary research to show the effectiveness of our own multi-skills playground markings. This research looked at the amount of activity taking place in school playgrounds and reported the changes in activity levels following the installation of our own multi-skills markings and CPD training. The reports showed a significant increase, proving that our multi-skills concepts were extremely effective throughout the whole school. Read our research evidence on play in schools for the full report.

Since these reports were released to the public, we have had many schools throughout the country take on board our concepts and implemented them into the school playground. One of our most popular products, the ‘multi-skills zone’ includes 5 playground markings and accompanying CPD training.

These expertly designed markings were specifically designed with multi-skills in mind and can be used to practice every single skill. They provide children with the context to learn and practice fundamental skills in an outdoor learning environment that is fun, creative and encouraging. It allows them to participate in a range of games and activities that are proven to improve gross motor skills applicable to all sports. Alongside pre-set games there is scope for creativity, allowing children to invent their own multi-skills games. Sustainability is vastly improved through CPD training, which is used to up-skill school staff with the knowledge for teaching multi-skills games to the children.

To find out more about our multi-skills concepts and how we can help improve the physical activity levels within your school playground, contact us today on 01282 434445.



Tips & Advice On Safety Surfaces

It is a moral obligation to ensure your playground is safe and organisations such as RoSPA, BSI, NPFA and CAPT strongly recommend safety surfacing as a priority in any playground development. Certain standards are in place to ensure this and one of our most frequently asked questions is ‘what safety surface do I require?’ The answer to this question varies greatly and depends on a number of variables such as how high the play equipment is, what aesthetics you require and what budget you have in place. There are many types of safety surface, all with different properties, so at first glance it can be a confusing subject for our customers. We aim to reduce that confusion and make recommendations suited towards your needs.

When are safety surfaces required?

Sometimes safety surfaces are not required. Should the playground equipment be under 0.6m high, it is at a safe fall height and requires no particular surface. Some people prefer to include safety surfacing anyway, just to be extra cautious.

Any play equipment over the height of 0.6 metres is required to have a safe surrounding. This can include loose surfaces such as: bark, sand and rubber mulch or fixed surfaces such as grass matting, artificial grass or wetpour. While natural surfaces are lower in cost, they are much less durable and harder to maintain.

How much safety surfacing is required?

The quantity of safety surfacing also varies according to the play equipment in place and the height at which is it set. ESP use appropriate calculations to determine both the depth and the area of the surfacing required. We make recommendations based on standards set by RoSPA; our RoSPA trained design team know these standards inside out. We work hard to minimise costs wherever possible, without sacrificing on safety.

Safety surfaces from ESP

ESP provide a wide range of surfacing ideal for meeting safety standards and enhancing the welfare of the children. These include:

  • Wetpour – A rubber crumb bound together by resin to produce a fixed safety surface. 
  • Artificial Grass – More durable than natural grass and a generally softer landing surface. Some artificial grass is also good for sports.
  • Rubber Mulch – A loose fill surface made from rubber mulch, a much cleaner and durable alternative to wood chipping.
  • Grass Matting – A cost effective surface designed to add more grip and cushion to existing grass.



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