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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From Playground Equipment To Playground Surfacing

ESP are expanding their services to include more playground surfacing options. This move sees the employment of more specialist surfacing staff on the ESP team who have experience in a wide range of surface installations and we are now happy to fully provide the following surfacing options:

Polymeric


A rubberised surface popular for a multitude of sports including 5-a-side football, netball, basketball tennis and more. Many schools choose to use this surface for use in multi-use games areas. The anti-slip paint ensures a safe grip while also making it available in a range of colours with a number of different markings.

Wetpour


Made from recycled tyres, wetpour is a resin bound rubber surface with a soft landing. It is very popular in early years settings due to its soft surface and excellent grip. Available in a range of colours so very well suited for themed playgrounds and for brightening up a dull area.

Artificial Grass


Available in a range of pile heights and thicknesses, our artificial grass can be used in a variation of settings from 3G sports pitches to natural looking garden areas. The underfoot feel is comparable to real life grass with an improved grip. It is the perfect alternative to real grass and incredibly realistic.

Rubber Mulch


A cleaner and drier alternative to wood chips; rubber mulch areas are made from chips of recycled rubber tyres. Weeds do not grow in rubber mulch unlike wood chips, and pests will not be attracted to it. It is an extremely safe landing surface so is perfect for use around high structures.

Resin Bound Gravel


Constructed from gravel and bound by resin, this surface is great for pathways and offers great aesthetics to any outdoor area.

Thermoplastic


All our playground markings are made from thermoplastic and come in a range of different colours. It offers a more durable and safe alternative to paint markings due to the anti-slip beading embedded into the surface. We offer a massive range of markings suitable for all manner of physical activities.

 

For more information on our range of safety surfacing, contact ESP today on 01282 43 44 45.

 

 

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5 Outdoor Learning Ideas

It has been suggested through extensive research, that pupils’ grades improve if they have taken part in outdoor learning at some point throughout their education. Can we afford to ignore these suggestions or should we be actively taking lessons outdoors? Unfortunately, this happens far less than it could. Maybe there aren’t enough suggestions in the curriculum; maybe there isn’t enough equipment in the playground; maybe school trips are too expensive.

This blog makes a number of suggestions on how to increase outdoor learning, many of them cost efficient.

1. Nature Based Outdoor Learning

The natural world is a great place to learn and play. Many subjects may be covered in a national park or a woodland area, such as: the recognition of specific plants or animals, the structure and life of a tree, materials of the natural world, and more.

Additionally the children are encouraged to use social skills, communication, team work and co-operation. As they work together to collect and discover objects, they share ideas, presenting their own findings to the rest of the class. This form of outdoor learning has been known to inspire confidence in children who might usually be more introverted, while calming down those who are unruly.

Through nature, children are taught to respect and care for the world around them by growing plants, feeding animals, clearing litter and much more. In an age where recycling and sustainable resources are becoming increasingly encouraged, it is important to introduce these factors early on in life. Children need to know why they should not litter and why it is important to recycle.

There are woodlands and natural parks in every part of the country; a trip to one of these can be a cost effective and exciting day out. The amount of discovery that can take place at a nature reserve is extremely high, and children are able to learn much more by spending a day there, than they would sat in a classroom reading text books.

Many schools are now creating their own natural play areas inside the school grounds. ESP have designed a number of ‘forest schools’ throughout the country and have installed items from our natural play range, which features products such as bird tables, hedgehog boxes and ladybird towers as well as planters, growing boxes and digging pits. These products are perfect for encouraging outdoor learning on a daily basis.

2. Multi-Skills Learning and Playground Games

Taking lessons into the outdoors and combining them with fun and physical activity is a great way to increase the effectiveness of teaching. Through kinaesthetic learning, children feel the effects of physical activity while utilising their brain power to process important curriculum lessons.

There are countless possible games that can be used to to teach the curriculum. Even a simple 1-100 number grid playground marking presents hundreds of opportunities for mathematics problem solving while getting the heart racing. The children won’t even realise the amount of information they are processing as they take part in various fun and games.

One of the biggest benefits of multi-skills training is the contribution towards improved motor skills such as catching, throwing, running, walking, balancing and more. Skills which are absolutely essential for success in sporting activities. Unfortunately, these skills are often skipped and children are thrown in at the deep end as far as sport is concerned. How can children be expected to effectively dribble a ball across a pitch and put it in the back of the net if they havent even learned how to run properly? Schools are certainly taking all this on board and our multi-skills packages are becoming increasingly popular.

3. Educational Playground Equipment

Some schools have chosen to take lessons outdoors by providing children with education-based playground equipment. These items provide children with a fun and exciting context to learn, practise and record curriculum learning. It is important to let the children leave the confines of the indoor classroom as often as possible. Not only is learning improved, but health and well being is increased.

ESP provide a wide range of subject specific play equipment for outdoor learning, such as: the maths play range which helps with problem solving, counting and plotting; the science range which includes products based on the weather, measuring and nature; the music range which introduces children to rhythm, timing and melody; and the nature range, which we have already discussed.

 4. Outdoor Classrooms

An outdoor classroom can be used in just the same way as a traditional indoor classroom but with the additional benefit of being outdoors. Shelters may contain seating, chalkboards, dry wipe boards, game boards and much more. This means that most activities that can be done indoors can also be done outdoors, so why not take every opportunity to give children the joy of outdoor learning?

Not only is an outdoor classroom useful for taking lessons outdoors, but it also provides children with an area to relax, socialise, wait for parents and shield from the weather.

We manufacture and install outdoor classrooms in all shapes and sizes. Take a look at our playground shelters for information on how we can build the perfect shelter for you.

5. Creative Play

The outdoors is a great place for children to flex their creativity. Fresh air and the sound and look of nature are perfect elements for enlightening inspiration. There are also many natural resources that lend themselves towards creativity whilst most outdoor learning areas are great for imaginative role-play.

Storytelling and roleplaying works wonders at bringing children together and cooperating with one another. These social benefits improve behaviour, while increasing the confidence of quiet children and giving more energetic children an outlet for their energy.

The effects that creative play has on other subjects is fairly obvious. Creative thinking can be applied not only to play time but also to English, Drama, Art and Music lessons. It allows children to ‘think outside the box’ and create things that are unique. As a result of their own creations, they are filled with happiness and a feeling of success.

ESP offer lots of creative play equipment aimed at providing children with additional areas for using their imagination including: items for den building, such as wigwam posts; roadway playground markings; play huts for role play; and much more.

Is your school active in encouraging outdoor learning?

As you have seen from this post, there are so many activities for outdoor learning. They need not cost much, and its up to you to use your imagination as much as it is up to the children to use theirs.

ESP are constantly researching and finding new ways to take the curriculum outdoors. We keep ourselves as up to date as possible, creating unique future classics and designing new products to suit the times.

Further Reading on the benefits of outdoor learning.

More details on evidence of improved learning from outdoor learning can be found at the following resource on the Education Scotland Website.

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£150m allocated to schools – bid to increase physical activity.

£150m has recently been allocated to school sport and PE by the government. This funding is to be handed over to schools in order to provide extra coaching sessions to up-skill school staff.

This brand new scheme is set to provide:

  • £9,250 per year to primary schools with 250 pupils.
  • Tougher Ofsted inspections to ensure the money has been well spent.
  • More specialist PE teachers via teacher training.
  • Help for linking schools to local coaches and clubs.

The government have been discussing these plans for months after an obvious desire for increased sporting activity had arisen throughout the education sector. It follows reports from Ofsted after a 4 year long investigation, which states that school sport is not at the standard it should be.

Much criticism was pointed towards the government in 2010 after £162m worth of funding was abolished. Schools will be pleased at the new funding opportunity so here’s hoping the government don’t change their minds again.

ESP and the improvement of school sport.

ESP fully support the idea of up-skilling staff and, alongside providing a wide range of playground equipment and markings, we also provide CPD training to school staff in order to improve the teaching of school sport. Our multi-skills concept has been proven to increase the abilities of children across a number of sporting activities. Our training programs provide the appropriate coaching to support this. More information can be found on our page on CPD training.

 

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ESP discuss recent PE Ofsted reports.

This week, Ofsted released its latest reports on school sport across England. On the whole, the results are positive, stating that PE is in ‘good health’. However, concerns have been raised over the lack of quality of PE lessons in some schools and in particular, Primary schools. This is largely due to the absence of adequate training resulting in a lack of confidence and competence amongst staff members. It has been said that lessons are not active enough. Staff are talking more than necessary and children have less time to become physically challenged.

ESP have recognised this lack of training for many years and through their own CPD training programs and multi-skills concepts they offer a number of solutions. This has proved to be extremely popular amongst primary schools throughout the country who are keen to tackle the problem of poor PE lessons. The CPD training receives widespread praise and ESP are pleased to have helped breathe a breath of fresh air into school sport. The main aim of CPD training is to directly improve PE lessons and with current Ofsted reports, this is invaluable to schools.

Schools looking to improve their PE lessons are advised to employ our multi-skills concept into their outdoor play areas. These playground markings provide a platform to build upon fundamental movement skills appropriate to all sports. With multi-skills games children are able to practice throwing, catching, jumping, twisting, running, walking and more. The Famous Five Multi-Skills package comes supplied with CPD training to up-skill staff and add sustainability to the products.

The warning signs provided by Ofsted should not be taken lightly. It’s time to make improvements to secure the health and wellbeing of children and to take the steps required to impress Ofsted. The current reports are good ‘on the whole’, but is this really good enough?

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