Discover the Latest Playground Equipment for Schools

The innovative minds here at ESP Play are always looking for new and better ways to help children learn and play in the school playground. Our latest playground equipment is designed to engage and enthral, motivating pupils to take an active part in physical and creative pursuits, whether that’s for learning or just for fun. Here are just some of the exciting new products we have on offer.

New imaginative playground equipment

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Our already wide range of imaginative playground equipment has expanded even more with the addition of eleven new products. These include two playboats, Liberty and Spirit. At almost 4m long and 1.7m wide, the Liberty allows your pupils' creativity to set sail on many adventures. Complete with onboard seating, flagged mast, ship’s wheel, sail shade, a bow to lean on and a plank to walk, its ideal for imaginative play. Alternatively, there’s the Spirit, a twin decked vessel with a raised quarterdeck, accessed via a ship’s ramp, steps and climbing holds. The top deck features two telescopes, a porthole, a flagged mast and a ship's wheel. On the lower deck, you’ll find seating for the crew, a walking plank, a tall bow and a chalkboard where Blackbeard can draw the map to the treasure.

Other new, imaginative play equipment incorporates a wide use of chalkboards. These include a worktable, sorting trough, activity bench and signposts. There’s also a coat and bag station where things can be safely hung up out of the way during outdoor activities.

New playground markings

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We’ve added 14 new playground markings to our existing collection. These include a variety of blank markings where we’ve removed numbers from the original designs. The Blank Circles, Multicoloured Circle Grid, Number Snake, Orange Way Number Ladder and giant 100 Square Blank Grid enable teachers to increase the challenge by getting pupils to fill in the numbers themselves with chalk or ask them to count without seeing the numbers.

We’ve also introduced other new playground markings, including basic shape markings, an EYFS Target Trainer and Ring Step and a fun Open Ended Frog Pond, complete with frog.

New Free Flow Packages

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Free Flow is a popular, modular climbing frame system that provides lots of excitement in the school playground. It motivates children to increase participation in physical activity and to develop important physical skills like coordination and balance. It also helps pupils challenge themselves, deal better with risk and develop resilience.

Our latest Free Flow packages are Endeavour, Adventure, Pursuit and Quest. From the smallest system, Endeavour, through to the largest, Quest, you’ll find a growing range of climbing and other physical challenges. Quest offers the widest variety of features, including jungle bars, a traversing wall, a swinging tyre bridge, spiderweb ropes, balance beams, balance ropes and more. The Free Flow system is suitable for children aged 5 to 16.

New-fangled Tangled equipment

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Our Tangled rope and beam challenge equipment has always been a highly popular choice for schools and we’ve made some significant updates to our range. First of all, we’ve added three brand new pieces. These are The Redback, The Nest and The Labyrinth. The Labyrinth is ideal for smaller spaces, being just 4.4m long and just over 1m wide. It also has no start or end point so pupils can get on and start playing from anywhere.

The Nest is over twice the width of The Labyrinth and offers a higgledy-piggledy set of fun climbing challenges that children will need to negotiate. With a wide range of starting points and an almost endless set of routes, there’ll always be lots of ways to enjoy this piece of apparatus. At over 5m long and 2.7m wide, The Redback is designed for larger playgrounds and offers even more opportunities to participate in physical activity, increase challenge and develop important skills, while also having lots of fun.

Aside from our new Tangled equipment, we’ve also updated some of our existing pieces. The Funnel Web, Lynx, Black Widow, Orb Weaver, Tarantula, Wolf, Huntsman and Nursery Web pieces now also come in painted versions, with black and green posts adding a touch of drama that makes them even more appealing to play on.

Conclusion

Working with schools up and down the country, we’re constantly getting ideas about the types of equipment children like to play on and the kinds of activities teachers need them to take part in. With these in mind, our team are constantly looking to improve our range of products to better meet the needs of pupils and teachers alike. Hopefully, you will find the latest playground equipment,  highlighted here, of value for your school.

For more information visit our New Products page.

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The Role of Outdoor Play in Pupil Progress

Pupil progress is a cornerstone of the modern education system and something against which all schools are judged, both by Ofsted and in academic league tables. When it comes to improving progress, the emphasis is usually on what happens in the classroom, with heads wanting to improve the ways that teachers teach and pupils learn. One piece of the jigsaw often overlooked, however, is what happens outside of the classroom, in the school playground, and how this can play a vital contribution to pupil progress overall. Here we’ll look at the educational value of outdoor play.

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The link between outdoor activity and pupil progress

Playground activity is often physical activity and participation in this, especially when it involves aerobic exercise like running, jumping or climbing, can be beneficial for both physical health and academic progress. Indeed, a study by Public Health England (PHE) found evidence that aerobically fit pupils achieve higher academic results.

With many children no longer getting regular exercise at home, a result of cautious parenting and the lure of modern hi-tech gadgetry, it is in the school playground where pupils get the greatest opportunities to be active.

Ideally, pupils need an hour of exercise every day and there are various ways schools can encourage participation, such as through the installation of playground markings for sports like football, netball, tennis and basketball or for stepping games like hopscotch. Playing on climbing equipment is also an enjoyable exercise and excellent for developing physical strength and overall fitness. Enabling children to get involved in these activities during break times, lunchtimes and PE can help increase the fitness that is associated with increased academic achievement.

Problem-solving – a transferable skill

The PHE study also pointed out how the development of problem-solving skills also contributes to pupil progress. A well-equipped playground has the potential to be one of the best resources a school has for giving pupils problems to solve and for providing the freedom to explore solutions and develop those essential skills.

One example of how this can be done is with a traversing wall. While children naturally enjoy the challenge of climbing and getting from one end to the other without falling off, success only comes after they have solved the problems they face. What’s the best way to hold on? How do I get across a wide gap? What’s the best route from start to finish? Similar problem-solving skills are required when using a wide range of different playground apparatus, whether it's figuring out how to stop a sandcastle collapsing, how to complete a Trim Trail obstacle course, how to complete a Tangled rope challenge or even how to sail a pirate ship during role play. Of course, once these skills are developed, they can be transferred to the classroom to aid children in their learning.

Better classroom behaviour

If five minutes of every one hour lesson is wasted through poor behaviour or lack of attention, then between reception and year 6 or between year 7 and year 13, pupils will miss out on the equivalent of 22 weeks of learning – over half an academic year. As any teacher who has undertaken intervention work with borderline children will know, those 22 weeks are invaluable when it comes to getting children to the level needed to achieve or exceed their targets. Improving classroom behaviour is, therefore, one way to help pupils make progress.

Indeed, the link between physical activity and improved, whole-school behaviour is a key point raised in the PHE study. Its findings show that taking part improves both relationships between pupils and their social behaviour. This, in turn, reduces classroom disruption and increases the amount of time that students have to learn and progress.

Again, the opportunities to participate in physical activity lie mainly in the playground where children can participate at intervals throughout the day: before school commences, at break and at lunch. The challenge is in motivating pupils to take part, but with the right climbing, sports or roleplay equipment available for them, they are much more likely to become active.

Conclusion

All schools want their pupils to make excellent progress, indeed their futures may depend upon it. Progress is also one of the key metrics through which judgements are made, both for the school as a whole and for the individuals who work within it. What the PHE study reveals is that there is a direct link between outdoor play and academic progress which comes from increased physical activity, problem-solving and improved behaviour. For pupils to benefit, however, schools need to make sure that playgrounds offer the opportunities to participate and the equipment that will motivate them to do so.

For more information about our playground equipment, visit our Products page.

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Coronavirus Lockdown – Can Pupils Still At School Play Outdoors?

With thousands of schools still open for the children of key workers, many teachers are asking whether it is still safe to play outdoors. The simple answer to this is yes; however, only if carried out safely. Here, we’ll explain why playing out is still very important and how it should be conducted to prevent the spread of Coronavirus.

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Fitter, Better, Sooner

‘Fitter, Better, Sooner’ is a health initiative from the Centre for Perioperative Care (CPOC) that aims to improve people’s recovery rates from surgery and to reduce the number of post-operative complications. In recent days, however, CPOC has issued advice to the UK public that following the Fitter, Better, Sooner guidance can help people be in a better state of health to fight Coronavirus and thus reduce the chances that they will become seriously ill from it.

The advice from CPOC is for people to stop smoking, have alcohol-free days, take brisk exercise, eat nutritiously and stay mentally healthy. While some of this guidance is obviously aimed at adults, for the children of key workers still attending school, teachers can do their bit to help improve physical health and mental wellbeing. This is perhaps critically important for those children still at school, many of whom will have increased risk of catching the virus because their parents work in the healthcare system.

When it comes to physical health, the advice is to take a brisk walk, cycle or jog. In addition, exercise that improves strength and balance is also recommended. Many of these forms of exercise can be done in the school playground and taking this opportunity means children now restricted to leaving home once a day, can get outside for an additional period of time, which can be beneficial to their mental wellbeing.

Playing safely during Coronavirus

If you allow children to play outside during the Coronavirus pandemic, it is important that social distancing rules are strictly adhered to. This means pupils must remain a minimum of 6 feet or 2 metres apart at all times. At the same time, because the virus can be spread from touching surfaces, children must not be allowed to share equipment during play, this includes everything from climbing frames to footballs. Indeed, for safety, pupils shouldn’t be given access to shared play apparatus and must be told not to pick up anything that has been handled by someone else, even if it is something as seemingly innocuous as a stick.

The implication is that, even though there will be very few pupils in the school, any outdoor activities need to be planned, structured and supervised. Perhaps one of the best forms of exercise for both children and staff is to take part in the Daily Mile – this will give an opportunity for brisk walking or jogging, which can be done with staggered starts to keep children at a safe distance from each other. Alternatively, you can always have races and even introduce fun by asking them to hop, jump, balance and even do dance moves while taking part. Indeed, if you have a battery-operated CD player, why not play games like ‘freeze dance’ where children dance until the music stops and then have to freeze in whatever position they were in?

If you have playground markings for stepper training or games like hopscotch, pupils can take turns while their friends watch at a safe distance. Of course, instead of having an object to throw and retrieve, they can just be assigned a square to finish on.

If teachers are stuck for ideas for physical activities, one possible solution is to look at drama starters and warm-up activities, many of which are done individually but with the purpose of showing to others. These are fun and active ways to get children engaged while outdoors.

Other benefits

Aside from being good for their fitness and mental wellbeing, getting pupils out of doors has other benefits. As social distancing means they will be cooped up at home for most of the time, there is increased risk of Vitamin D deficiency. Vitamin D, which is essential for good health, is produced in our bodies when skin is exposed to sunlight. Getting children out into the playground is an effective way to boost their Vitamin D levels.

At the same time, being outdoors gives the opportunity to keep children even further apart than 6 feet. The more time they spend outside, therefore, the less chance there is of them passing the virus on to others.

Finally, remember that pupils should wash or sanitise their hands on return to the school after playing out.

Conclusion

For the children of key workers still attending school, outdoor play and exercise can improve physical fitness and mental wellbeing. According to the CPOC, this, together with a healthy diet, can increase the body’s ability to fight the virus. However, for outdoor play to take part, play equipment should be thoroughly cleaned before and after use. This means teachers will need to think carefully about the activities they plan for playtimes and PE.

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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.

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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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Coronavirus and Outdoor Play – Advice for Schools and Nurseries

Coronavirus will be high on every school and nursery agenda at the moment and staff, parents and even children will have concerns about its spread. As providers of playground equipment, we have a specific interest in how Coronavirus can be spread in the playground and have been researching government, NHS and scientific guidance for schools and nurseries. Here is a summary of the most important information we have found.

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Outdoor play is beneficial

Although outdoor play cannot stop you getting Coronavirus, the opportunity to participate in exercise and to increase Vitamin D levels through exposure to sunlight can improve your body’s ability to fight the virus, making it less likely that an infection will become serious. According to Prof Arne Akbar of University College London and president of the British Society for Immunology, exercise increases blood flow and this mobilises white blood cells, enabling them to better ‘seek and destroy’ viruses in the body. Exercise also helps reduce stress, which is another way to boost the immune system - as is increasing our Vitamin D levels which are naturally lower during the winter when there is less sunlight and we don’t go outside as often.

In addition, playing in outdoor spaces gets pupils away from the more densely occupied and heavily trafficked areas of the school or nursery where there is more chance of someone getting infected. Indeed, reducing the length of time children are in these areas decreases the potential for surfaces to get contaminated. Overall, ensuring children can still play outside and take part in physical activities can be a positive step in safeguarding against Coronavirus.

Advice when playing outdoors

According to the UK government, there is currently no reason to stop doing outdoor play and sports as you normally would. However, hand hygiene should be strongly promoted and pupils should wash their hands (or use hand sanitiser) when entering and leaving the school or nursery. This can reduce the potential for outdoor equipment and surfaces getting contaminated and help prevent the virus being brought from the playground back into the building.

Besides hands, it is also important to ensure surfaces remain clean. This includes outdoor play equipment, outdoor classroom resources, playground toys, sports equipment, tables, seats, shelters handrails and door or gate furniture.

Advice from the World Health Organization tells us that Coronavirus can live on surfaces for up to several days. However, this depends on several factors, such as the type of surface, exposure to sunlight, temperature and humidity. In most instances, the amount of coronavirus on a contaminated surface will have decreased substantially after 24 hours and potentially even more on outdoor surfaces.

Dr Jenny Harries, England's Deputy Chief Medical Officer, said that Coronavirus will not survive very long outside and that many outdoor events are safe. Although the government’s planned specific advice on cleaning equipment has not yet been published, all outdoor equipment should be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected after use, especially objects that are frequently touched by hands.

The government has, however, released information about keeping educational establishments clean in circumstances where staff suspect that there may be a case of Coronavirus – i.e. is someone is showing symptoms. In these situations, the school or nursery must follow ‘current workplace legislation and recommended practice’, cleaning all the surfaces that the individual has come into contact with, using disposable cloths and household detergents. Things needing to be cleaned include any surfaces or objects that are ‘visibly contaminated with bodily fluids’ and any potentially contaminated high-contact areas or items.

However, if a person suspected of having the virus only passes through an area or has spent limited time there, and there are no surfaces visibly contaminated with body fluids, deep cleaning and disinfecting are not (at the time of publication) currently required.

Conclusion

Unless government advice changes, outdoor play, learning and sports should continue to take place in schools and nurseries; indeed there may be benefits to the immune system from doing so. When outdoors, it is advised that pupils should wash or sanitise their hands on exit and return to the main building and that regular cleaning and disinfecting of playground equipment should take place, especially surfaces that come into contact with hands or bodily fluids.

Please note that Coronavirus is a new virus and that guidance and advice may be subject to change as more is learnt about it. For more information read the Gov.uk page Guidance to educational settings about COVID-19.

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