EYFS Playground for Westbourne Primary School

Westbourne Primary is a larger than average-sized, two-form entry primary school in Bradford, West Yorkshire, catering for around 475 pupils from nursery age through to year 6. The school had recently appointed a new headteacher who immediately identified that improvements needed to be made to the quality of EYFS outdoor provision. When choosing a playground developer to undertake the project, the headteacher carried out in-depth due diligence by assessing eight different companies before making a final decision.

The challenge 

Upon appointment to their new post, the headteacher immediately found the EYFS outdoor space did not enable Westbourne Primary School to deliver high-quality provision for its pupils. The area was tired, outdated, in need of serious cosmetic improvement and lacked the facilities pupils needed. The existing space did not offer suitable progression between the indoor and outdoor provision and the majority of activities needed to be teacher-led. The lack of opportunity for children to initiate their own play, to free-flow or self-discover new experiences was also a concern.

Before Installation

The brief

ESP Play was asked to design and install a new playground area that was more inviting, stimulating and engaging for EYFS children. As part of this, the development needed to provide a variety of play and learning experiences, including those where children could initiate and take part in free play. At the same time, the headteacher wanted to expand the outdoor opportunities that pupils had to develop their communication and language skills and to participate in problem-solving activities.

The project

ESP Play began by undertaking a thorough site survey before working with the school to design a new playground which would meet educational and school improvement objectives required from its investment. Once the design was agreed, a commencement date was established. Work began by installing new surfacing to the playground. This involved a variety of different surfaces, used to define the different play zones. These included block paving, resin bound gravel and artificial grass, some of which included playground markings, such as the ‘Roadway’. We then proceeded to build the water-play feature and raised messy play area.

The playground design included several pieces of climbing equipment, including an underground tunnel with an artificially grassed mound, log stairs, twisty challenges and a large, centrepiece Tangled climbing frame. In addition, we made much use of the available wall space by installing a magnetic water wall, body warping mirrors, whiteboards and chalkboards. A wooden play hut, tepee posts, triangular stage, benches, picnic table and various other pieces were also installed.

The results

The finished design transformed the outdoor space for Westbourne’s pupils, providing more opened areas for play, that were both safe and inviting for children to play on. Our carefully created zones meant space could be used more effectively and safely while providing a much wider range of age-appropriate activities for children to participate in.

After Installation

The outcome

As a result, outdoor EYFS provision is much improved at the school. Pupils are able to take part in far more free play and learning activities and do so more independently. There are also more opportunities to engage in communications and develop language skills and to problem-solve.

Overall, the school was very impressed with the educational knowledge ESP applied to the design and with the quality of the final products and installation. All areas had relevance and purpose but retained an open-ended interpretation of use. The school was delighted with the quality of the finished play area. The service was praised as the installation took place in school time without disruption to the school day. Attention to detail from design, product selection, quality of product and EYFS relevance and purpose was praised from the chair of governors, the Trust CEO, the headteacher, EYFS lead and teaching staff.

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What Are Trim Trails and Why Are They Great for Schools?

If you asked most people what a Trim Trail was, they wouldn’t be able to give you an answer. Unlike a climbing frame or play tower, the name doesn’t really give the game away. This makes Trim Trails the unsung hero of the British playground because, in fact, they are one of the most popular forms of playground equipment in the UK. You see them everywhere, in parks, public play areas and, increasingly, in the school playground. In this post, we aim to explain exactly what a Trim Trail is and show you why they are great for schools.

literacy and phonics

What is a Trim Trail?

A Trim Trail is a children’s obstacle course composed of different pieces of apparatus laid out to form a series of fun-filled physical challenges. The aim is for the child to get from the start to the finish – though where they start or finish is usually down to them.

What pieces of equipment make up a Trim Trail is entirely dependent on the choice of the school and this is usually based on the age, ability and interests of the children for whom it is created and on the space and budget the school have available. Though, when it comes to budget, the Trim Trail can be added to over time.

What pieces of equipment can be used in a Trim Trail?

There are many individual pieces of apparatus that can be used to create a unique Trim Trails course. These include:

  • Balance beams
  • Balance challenges
  • Chin-up bars
  • Challenge nets (climbing rigging)
  • Dip bars
  • Duck and dive (under and over) posts
  • Jungle bars
  • Leapfrog posts
  • Log passes (wobbly log balance beams)
  • Log stairs
  • Log steps (wooden stepping stones)
  • Log strides
  • Log weaves
  • Meet and split balance bars
  • Overhead ladder bars (for swinging)
  • Rope traverses, including zig-zag traverses
  • Shuffle bars
  • Spinning log balance bars
  • Step and jump posts
  • Twisty challenges (twisted rigging)
  • Tyre pass (wobbly tyre balance challenge)
  • Tyre steppers
  • Wobbly bridges
  • Wobbly planks

 

There is also a range of interchangeable Trim Trails. These are rope challenges built on apex, cube or square frames, which come with a variety of rope designs that can be changed frequently to ensure the children always have different obstacles to play on. These can be incorporated into standard Trim Trails courses and are designed for the ropes to be easily changed over. There are many different rope challenges you can choose from.

Pupils of all age groups can use Trim Trails

Trim trails products are divided into four categories: early years, simplified, intermediate and advanced. The products in each category get increasingly more challenging and, in some cases, they are higher off the ground or are designed for taller children. Early years pieces are obviously designed for EYFS pupils. While simplified work well with infants, intermediate with juniors and advanced with secondary, the wide range of abilities within any cohort of students means schools may want to include items from more than one category into their trail. Here at ESP Play, we’re more than happy to give advice on what works well.

Why are Trim Trails great for schools?

Trim trails offer four great benefits to schools. They are fun to play on, help pupils develop a range of important skills, improve physical health and contribute to mental wellbeing. One of the reasons you see so many Trim Trails courses across the country is that, even from a very young age, children love to play on them. The challenges they present and the excitement of trying to overcome them make them irresistible to many children.

Those same challenges, however, help children develop a range of skills. For the youngest, these include physical skills like balance and coordination but, beyond this, they teach all children how to handle risk, solve problems and develop resilience – all skills which can be transferred to the classroom and which are essential for life after school.

With obesity being a rising issue for our society and increasing numbers of pupils being overweight, it has never been more important to get children active. According to the NHS, youngsters should get an hour of quality physical activity every day. Unfortunately, modern lifestyles mean fewer young people get the opportunity to play outside with their friends out of school and, often, the only real chance they get is during school break and lunchtimes. Introducing a Trim Trail course gives children the apparatus they need to participate in physical activity and, with a range of different equipment, it is possible to get them doing a variety of health benefitting exercises – climbing, swinging, jumping, fast steps, etc.

Regular physical activity is also beneficial for mental wellbeing, indeed, according to the Mental Health Foundation, it can increase self-esteem, reduce stress and anxiety, help prevent the development of mental health problems and improve the quality of life of those who already have such a problem. With 12.8% of UK pupils now living with a mental health disorder and schools under increased pressure to take care of those affected and help prevent the trend getting worse, a Trim Trail can make a positive contribution to a school’s efforts.

Conclusion

Hopefully, this post will have helped you put the right name to the popular pieces of outdoor play equipment you see in playgrounds up and down the country. Trim Trails are thrilling obstacle courses made up from apparatus of your choice and which not only offer exciting playtimes but help develop skills, make children physically fitter and bring benefits for mental wellbeing.

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Ideas for Teaching Literacy and Phonics in the Playground

The TES forums are full of teachers looking for new and innovative ways to teach literacy and phonics. If you are looking for inspiration, you should consider moving some of your lessons outdoors into the playground. With the space to move around and the freedom to make a bit more noise, numerous opportunities present themselves to take your teaching to a different level. Here, we’ll explain how.

literacy and phonics

Reading in the round

When children read or are being read to, they go on an adventure of the mind. You can enhance this journey on clement days by taking them outside, away from the familiarity of the classroom where their minds will be more open to the stories and characters they engage with.

You can do this just by taking the chairs outside or by sitting in a circle on a patch of grass. What would be better, however, is if you had a dedicated story-telling place to go to. Many schools have now created these, often using artificial grass surfacing topped with circular seating. Some even create magical areas with mushroom seats and story-telling chairs

These can be used for whole class or small group sessions and the circle makes it a great place not just for reading but for talking about the stories and the language the writer uses.

Develop literacy through roleplay

To develop their understanding of literacy, children need to explore how characters react to the situations they find themselves in and make predictions about what will happen as the plot develops. One of the best ways to do this is to use roleplay, with the children taking on the roles of the characters in the story.

This is more than just acting out the story. It is putting the characters in imaginary situations that they haven’t encountered in the plot. For example, imagine what Cinderella would say to her friends when she first discovered her father was getting married. How would this conversation change once her father had died and she was left with her stepmother and stepsisters?

A story-telling circle would be a great place for this to happen, with the children acting out in the middle. Alternatively, a small stage could be erected in the playground.

Letters and phonics games

Teaching letters and phonics can be a chore and children can struggle to learn them. It makes it so much easier, however, if this takes place as part of a game where the emphasis is on having fun and the learning is a natural by-product.

Teach a child to play snakes and ladders and they soon learn the values of the numbers on the dice. The same happens when you play letters and phonics games. Luckily, some of these are available as playground markings which can be played on not just in lesson time but during break and lunchtimes as well, where they can extend learning even further.

The letters and phonics markings include Phonic Spots, Footwork Vowels and the Letter Stepper, all of which are variations of hopscotch and similar playground games.

Outdoor mark-making

Mark-making is the first step towards learning to write and children need plenty of practice in order to develop both the dexterity of the hand and familiarity with trying to recreate the shapes. At such an early stage in their development, you don’t need to concentrate entirely on developing these skills with a pencil, any mark-making apparatus will do: board pens, crayons, paintbrushes and even fingers are all helpful.

Outside, children can practice mark-making in more ways than indoors. They can paint and draw on large upright whiteboards or chalk on blackboards where they are using their hands at different angles and creating marks of different sizes, they can even recreate letters by drawing in the sand using a sandbox.

Of course, with so much variety, it is possible to get the children to experiment with different types of mark-making equipment and techniques, helping them to master skills quicker and keeping them engaged with activities.

Vocabulary charades

Charades has been a popular party game for centuries and will be familiar to many children either in its original form or in one of the many modern reinterpretations, such as Rapidough or Pictionary. Its value for teaching literacy comes in its ability to get children to think about the meaning of a word and how to communicate that to other children.

Vocabulary charades, where you give a child a word and they have to act it out to their peers, is a fun way to teach literacy and works well in an outdoor environment, such as in the story-circle. This can be enhanced by getting the children to do improvised roleplay after playing charades, during which they have to use the vocabulary you’ve been learning as often as they can.

Conclusion

With games to play, equipment to experiment with, space to explore and less concern over keeping quiet, the playground can be an inspirational learning space for children. This makes it ideal, when the weather’s fine, as a place for teaching literacy and phonics. Hopefully, you’ll find the ideas we mentioned here useful.

For more information take a look at our Outdoor English Curriculum page.

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Going Up! 6 Benefits of Climbing Frames for Primary Pupils

Take any primary aged child to the local park and they’ll instinctively head straight for the climbing frame. There’s something alluring about getting off the ground and tackling the challenges that climbing frames pose. Children love them and that’s a good thing because besides being great fun, they are also incredibly beneficial for kids of that age. It’s no surprise, therefore, that climbing frames have become one of the most popular forms of playground equipment found in UK primary schools. To understand why so many schools opt for them, here are six benefits they offer to infant and junior pupils.

climbing frames

1. Growing Independence

Pupils should leave the education system as well-rounded individuals prepared for the wider world. Integral to this is being able to think and act for themselves. The journey to personal independence begins in primary school and can be nurtured by participation in free play.

Equipment like our Free-Flow climbing frames is ideal for this purpose as pupils will need to be self-reliant and make their own decisions about how they navigate the many possible routes and negotiate each of the exciting obstacles they have to overcome.

2. Accepting challenge

Getting children to accept challenge is important if they are to meet and exceed expectations. While some children arrive at school with this trait, others need to acquire it. Climbing frames provide a fun way to do this as pupils and their peers often set themselves challenges in how to tackle the different routes around the structure. A child who has successfully managed the challenge of the jungle bars or traversing wall at break is going to be more self-confident when it comes to taking on the maths challenge in the next lesson.

3. Onboarding of learning skills

Some essential skills are best learnt not in a classroom but in the playground and in unstructured time. Three good examples of these are concentration, teamwork and resilience, all of which are vital for a child to learn well and succeed.

When children play in groups on a climbing frame, they can develop all these skills and do so in a way that comes naturally to them. For example, when playing on a Trim Trail obstacle course, they will need to develop concentration to master each of the obstacles, they will have to collaborate with friends to help the team complete the course and, until they master all of the physical skills needed, they’ll need to develop resilience when they initially fail at some tasks. The benefit is these skills are transferable and can be used to help the children study and learn better back in lessons.

4. Bolsters social skills

Climbing frames aren’t just for climbing, some have themed designs that are specially created to motivate role play. Taking part in such action adventures, with children adopting different personas in a range of made-up situations, requires a lot of social interaction. This develops social skills like communicating, negotiating and turn-taking while enabling the children to have empathy for and understanding of others. At the same time, they’ll discover the need to set rules and boundaries and learn how to resolve fallouts.

5. Promotes physical health

Playing on a climbing frame is akin to having a physical workout. Children will naturally run, jump, swing and climb in order to get from one part to the next and this requires significant physical exertion and the use of virtually all the muscles. In doing so, the activities improve cardiovascular health, increase muscle strength and enhance general fitness. They also burn calories, helping children to maintain a healthy weight.

Perhaps what’s even more appealing for the school and parents is that installing a climbing frame can motivate children to be even more active. According to Liverpool John Moors University research, when climbing apparatus is installed in a playground children increase their participation in moderate to vigorous activity by around 30 minutes per week. As a result, over 70% of pupils show an improvement in their health and fitness.

6. Good for mental wellbeing

The mental health crisis is a national issue at the moment and this affects children just as much as adults. According to the NHS, in 2017, 1 in 8 five to nineteen-year-olds had at least one mental condition, with emotional, behavioural and hyperactivity disorders being the most prevalent. While there are many possible causes of mental health disorders, children from low-income families, those under pressure to do well in examinations and those with identity or self-image issues are particularly at risk.

The issue is compounded by the lack of adequate mental health services and so schools, which look after these children on a daily basis, get very little help. Although it is not a panacea, providing young children with the opportunity to take part in physical activities, such as playing on a climbing frame, has been shown to have a positive impact on mental wellbeing.

The moderate to vigorous activity undertaken on climbing frames helps to increase endorphin levels, lifts mood and reduces stress. This can help children to be calmer, less anxious, more focussed and even better behaved. Indeed, those who take part in regular physical activity have less chance of developing a mental health condition.

Conclusion

Children are naturally attracted to climbing frames and the challenges they throw at them. Putting one in your playground offers far more than just fun, though. It helps with physical and mental health, develops social and learning skills, increases personal independence and fosters a more positive attitude to accepting challenge.

To enable your pupils to enjoy these benefits, take a look at our wide range of climbing frames.

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Green Ridge Primary Academy – Creating the ‘WOW’ Factor One Year On

We were delighted to revisit this play area one year after we completed the project.

This showcases not only the great work we do but also the fact that our play areas stand the test of time!

upgrade

The project at Green Ridge Primary Academy, Aylesbury, involved creating several new EYFS areas.

The new play areas have injected a new lease of life into the Academy’s outside space and will entertain and motivate the children for many years to come!

As you can see from the play area in the photos, it is designed for children just starting their first stages of education; these years are crucial for cognitive learning and development of their social skills.

Bringing children to play and learn together in this way is central to everything we create.

Speaking to the staff at Green Ridge they have expressed their joy towards the project stating they are ‘over the moon’ with the results and the way in which the children have used the pace over the last year.

As a company, we pride ourselves in the work we do and the impact, not only for the children, but also for the staff who are able to teach more engaged and healthier young people.

We take our duty of care to our customers very seriously and we very much believe the customer service we provide is as important as any of the work we do  - before, during and after.

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