Putting children in an open space with unstructured activities and limited adult supervision can cause problems, especially when you have the whole school using the space at the same time. This makes lunch and break times a period of increased risk for the safety of children. One way to reduce that risk is to improve pupil behaviour in the playground. In this post, we’ll take a look at some of the ways this can be achieved.
What behaviours need to be managed?
When we talk about playground behaviour, we are referring to a range of things that children do which can have health and safety concerns. Whilst bullying is something that easily comes to mind, there are less extreme behaviours which can also be risky, such as going into ‘out of bounds’ areas, playing ball games near windows, climbing on walls or playing physical games in high traffic areas.
With the exception of bullying, none of these are malicious; yet most children know they are breaking a rule when they do them. To make a playground safer, therefore, the aim is to stop this behaviour happening. Whilst better policing might be one way to reduce the number of incidents where rules get broken, a better strategy would be to address the causes of these behaviours. Here are some ways you can do this in your playground.
1. Reducing bullying by reducing boredom
One factor that can increase incidents of bullying in the playground is boredom. According to an article in The Telegraph, a report, commissioned by the Royal Bank of Scotland, claims that playground bullying is directly linked to a lack of stimulation and that one sixth of UK children suffer from break time boredom.
The key to resolving playground bullying, then, is in providing something interesting for children to do. Children who are engaged and happy are far less likely to pick on other children. According to the same Telegraph article, the charity Landscapes for Learning says that schools that have transformed their playgrounds have seen a 64% reduction in bullying. They’ve seen vandalism fall by 28%, too.
Transforming your playground is no longer a difficult task. The variety of high-quality playground equipment now available means schools can cater for the needs of children all the way from EYFS to the top end of secondary school. This doesn’t just include things for the sporty kids either; there’s equipment for arty kids, nature lovers, adventure seekers, mud pie makers and much more.
2. Improve behaviour through managing space
One way to stop pupils playing physical activities in areas where they might cause injury or damage is to divide your playground into discrete activity zones. For example, if you have children wanting to play football during the break times this can be done quite easily with the installation of playground markings. You can also add a sports playground surface to this area as well, such as wetpour surfacing or artificial grass.
By installing these dedicated activity areas, you provide the incentive pupils need to behave more considerately towards others. They will be much more likely to use the facilities on offer and as a result, the risk of accidents is reduced.
It’s not just the setting up of a sports zone that can improve the way children behave, though. It’s about setting up a range of different zones and locating them in the most appropriate place. For example, if you install a sand and water play zone for your infant pupils, you might not want your juniors to take over the area. Locating this near a place that is easily supervised and which can be fenced off will discourage older pupils from going in an area they know is out of bounds.
3. Stop rule breaking by providing essential facilities
Children are great improvisers. If you don’t provide them with a ball, they’ll use a plastic bottle or a tin can; if you don’t give them somewhere to sit, they’ll use a wall, a windowsill or some steps. With the latter, you’ll find many schools where there are no seating facilities at all in the playground and yet there are rules forbidding children from sitting on walls, windowsills and steps for health and safety reasons.
Whilst it’s understandable why the rules are in place, it’s equally as understandable why children choose to ignore them. What’s not understandable is why schools don’t provide adequate facilities in the first place. Playground seating is relatively inexpensive, lasts a very long time and when put in the right place stops children breaking rules and risking getting injured.
You can do this with bins to prevent the dropping of litter, with playground paving to encourage children to follow rules about moving safely from area to area, and with picnic tables to make sure they eat their snacks and lunches is designated areas.
A well-equipped school playground can have a big impact on behaviour and safety. Not only does it remove one of the main causes of bullying, it also helps manage minor behaviour issues that can lead to the risk of accident and injury. When installed, children naturally begin to use the equipment in ways which make playgrounds safer and which reduces the burden on those staff who are on duty.