How to Encourage Role Play in the Playground

Role play is an essential element of child development. Not only is it great fun, it helps develop children’s creativity, communication, confidence and problem-solving skills. By adopting the persona of made-up, real life or fictional characters, children can act out scenarios that enable them to learn and understand the world better. It helps them develop key social skills, too. In this post, we’ll look at the ways schools can help encourage pupils to participate in and benefit from role play.

1. No grown-ups, please

The most beneficial form of role play is that which is child-led. When children develop their own scenarios, they are likely to be more engaged in what they are doing. They will often bring to the role play their own ideas and thus explore the issues that they may be concerned about or which interest them the most.

Child-led role plays are most effective when pupils feel uninhibited. If they feel that teachers are listening in, it might restrict what they are saying. For this reason, it is always a good decision to monitor the action from a distance.

Perhaps the best location for role play is in the playground. Here children automatically know that free play is allowed and that staff are only there to ensure safety. With this in mind, they are more apt to get involved. Similarly, the playground provides the space for children to split off into groups where they can interact with others who they feel comfortable with – and this, too, gives greater scope for the creative mind to explore more freely.

2. Create zones in the playground

Children need space in which to carry our role play without interference from other activities which are taking place. One way to do this is to divide a playground into zones so that there is a range of clearly defined places for different activities.

In most well-designed playgrounds, children will typically want somewhere to play sports, a place for climbing or for an obstacle course, somewhere quiet, such as a nature area, and a place for role play and other creative activities.

Designing your playground layout can ensure that enough space is provided for each activity and that their location is in the safest area.

3. Provide pupils with props

Props and costumes are great for inspiring children to role play, and they don’t need to be an expensive purchase, either. In fact, most schools can usually put a collection together simply by asking parents to donate unwanted items: anything from old hats, bags, clothes, toys or anything else which can be used. If you need a place to keep the items, a simple, plastic, garden storage box is ideal for children to root through and replace items when finished. These are waterproof and so can be left outside.

4. Provide equipment that inspires role play

Another way to inspire children to start role play is to provide equipment that can spark their imagination. There is a wide selection of imaginary playground equipment which will encourage pupils to invent all sorts of imaginary worlds and create amazing scenarios to act out.

Take this tree trail thicket, inspired by the jungle. It puts children right in the heart of the action, giving them paths to follow and obstacles to conquer. It even has stepping stones in the style of ancient statues. It’s a great way to turn your playground into the set from Indiana Jones or Tomb Raider.

The thicket isn’t a standalone item, either, but just one of a range of products from our Wild Wood collection. You can embellish your forest themed role play area with crawl through logs, wigwams, forest play huts and slides in the shape of a tree.

Alternatively, you can use history to help with role play – ideal if its also part of the curriculum. Our Windsor Castle play tower provides the ideal inspiration to help children invent historical dramas. It’s also great fun with lots of challenges.

For ‘kitchen sink’ drama, where children can role play and explore everyday situations, try our selection of mud kitchens. These are great for younger children acting out parent-child domestic scenes whilst having fun cooking up mud pies at the same time.

Television can also be a great inspiration, so why not install a wooden train and let the children recreate the characters from Thomas the Tank Engine? There are all sorts of pieces of equipment you can install: magical distorting mirrors, shop kiosks, bridges, just to name a few.

5. Playground surfaces that inspire role play

It’s not just equipment that you can use to create an inspirational environment, you can also use playground markings too. This road way, for example, lets children play at being vehicle drivers. It can also teach them the basics of road safety.


Providing opportunities for children to participate in role play is a great way to help their development. Hopefully, this post will have shown you that the best way to do this is to give them the freedom to explore their ideas, a safe place to play, some helpful props and costumes, and a range of inspirational equipment. With these four things in place, you can easily provide the ideal environment for role play to take place.


5 Benefits of School Playground Markings

Are you looking for an affordable and effective way to breathe new life into a tired school playground? If you are, then playground markings may be the ideal solution. Inexpensive, easy to install and long-lasting, there are countless designs you can choose from and they bring many benefits to the school and the pupils.

Improving health and fitness

According to the NHS, children aged five to eighteen should have at least one hour of physical activity every day. Achieving this, however, is proving difficult. Many children don’t get regular exercise at home, PE time in school is limited, many schools have short lunch breaks with little time to play and lots of children aren’t active during free time.

The key to improving the health and fitness of your students is in getting them to be active during the limited time they are in the playground. For those with budgets that can’t stretch to climbing equipment or an outdoor gym, playground markings are the cost-effective option.

Installing sports markings, for example, can motivate large numbers of children to participate in team sports such as netball, football or basketball. There is also a wide range of markings designed especially for fun and games. There’s everything from mini roadways, to footwork chess, to a variety of hopscotch games.

Better PE provision

When schools install sports markings, they are getting resources that have a dual purpose. Not only can they helpful for getting children active, they can also be used for PE. The markings for pitches, mentioned above, can be used to extend the variety of sports that the school can teach. There are markings for football, futsal (five-a-side soccer), netball, basketball, cricket, tennis and rounders. If you are short of space, you can even install a multi-court which overlays different pitch markings in different colours.

In addition, there is a selection of physical skills markings that can be used, these can help with footwork, balance, agility, target practice, hurdles, bouncing and catching, etc. You can even set up a multi-skills zone.

Extending learning beyond the classroom

There are now playground markings designed to enhance the academic curriculum. Children love to play on these bright and attractively designed markings during break times and they can also be incorporated into outdoor lessons.

For literacy, there are markings such as alphabet targets, footwork vowels, letter steps and phonetic spots. For maths, there are 1-100 number grids, shapes and ladders, number arches, matrices and clock targets. For other subjects, you can choose from compass hopscotch, compass rings and weather markings.

At ESP Play, we even have markings designed to help younger children with road safety. These include mini roadways, zebra crossings, traffic lights, roundabouts (with direction arrows) and a mini car park.

Developing social skills

When children play together, especially in larger numbers, there is more opportunity for them to develop important social skills. Many of the markings used for sports and games will help pupils with key skills such as turn taking, patience, respect for others and empathy.

At the same time, children will need to interact in order to play together or when asking other children for a turn on a game. This will help them become better negotiators and improve their ability to resolve disputes. It can also lead to new friendships.

Improving behaviour

According to Public Health England, physical activity has a direct link with classroom behaviour. Some of the main benefits you can achieve through helping children become more active are improved social behaviour, better peer relationships and reduced classroom disruption.

Through installing playground markings, schools are able to increase activity rates and reduce the boredom that often causes problems to start. A recent study by Leeds Metropolitan University of the effects of our playground installations in 167 schools found they increased pupil activity levels by 14%. There was also an 11% improvement in citizenship.

As a result of using playground markings, schools should see pupil behaviour improve and benefit from the increased attainment that comes from a less disruptive classroom. Better behaviour, both in the classroom and the playground, is also something that will please Ofsted inspectors, parents, staff and pupils.


Not every school has the resources to finance large-scale playground equipment. Budgets are tight, grants are not always available, and it can be difficult to raise the money through the PTA. However, that doesn’t mean upgrading your playground is a no-go project. Playground markings are an affordable solution that can transform your outdoor space and the activities that go on there. They can make pupils happier, healthier, socially more adept and improve behaviour. In addition, they can extend your PE provision and take learning out of doors.

For more information, check out our full range of playground markings, or call us on 01282 43 44 45.


How Does a School Business Manager Add Value to Pupils’ Education?

In the thirty years since the introduction of Grant Maintained Status, school management has changed dramatically. Today, with the rise of academies, much of a school’s administration falls under the leadership of the school business manager.

Far more than a bursar, the business manager is usually a member of the senior leadership team and carries out a wide range of duties. Their responsibilities often include school finance, income generation, publicity and marketing, building management, HR and health and safety.

With most senior teachers having limited management experience in these areas, it makes sense to delegate responsibilities to someone with the necessary skills so that the teaching staff can focus on educational areas: teaching and learning, curriculum, progress and attainment, etc.

However, school business management and school education management should not be conceived as being separate. As I mentioned in my recent YouTube video, The Importance of School Business Mangers, “the key objective of any school is about maximising the attainment of every child and to create as many positive experiences that they will remember,” and the business manager has a big role to play in making that happen.

Here are some of the important ways a school business manager can add value to pupils’ education.

1. Making the school improvement plan financially feasible

The purpose of any school improvement plan is to raise the attainment and achievement of pupils but putting these plans into action does have an impact on the school budget. You may need to recruit additional staff, reallocate existing staff, procure new resources or buy in third-party expertise.

A good business manager will assist here by providing robust financial management to the improvement planning process. They will help make significant savings and identify alternative funds to ensure that the school’s objects are financially viable.

2. Saving money through best value

Business managers are experts when it comes to getting the best value. They have the experience, for example, to negotiate the best contracts with the external services the school needs. This can include supply agencies, catering companies, classroom resource providers, coach hire companies and school window cleaners. The results here not only mean savings that the school can reallocate to improving teaching and learning but more efficient and better-quality services, too.

It’s not just in the procurement of resources that a business manager can improve efficiencies. They also ensure that the school makes the most effective use of its resources. Moving training days from winter to summer can save hundreds of pounds on heating and lighting bills, better management of staff absence can reduce the number of sick days and save thousands, as can moving the school’s IT server to a third-party cloud hosting company.

3. Taking responsibility for non-teaching staff

Many school business managers become the senior line manager for non-teaching staff within a school and this can have an enormous impact. One of the first big gains is that a senior teacher no longer has to fulfil this role and, thus, they’ll have more time to concentrate on school development.

More than this, however, is the way that business managers can restructure the working arrangements of the non-teaching staff so the school functions more effectively. Introducing new protocols for admin staff can help reduce the admin workload for teachers and give them more time to focus on the classroom. They can also manage the performance of non-teaching staff and ensure that effective training is put in place to enable the school to perform even better.

This can mean classrooms are cleaner, playgrounds are better supervised, teaching assistants are better allocated, photocopying is done quicker, resources are easier to find and consumables are always in stock. All of which can have a valuable impact.

4. Finding additional funding

School business managers are adept at bidding for external funding. They have the experience and skills to ensure that bids for funds are completed accurately and meet the criteria which are needed. For many schools, the amount of additional funding found by a business manager covers their salary many times over. These types of bid enable schools to undertake big capital projects which otherwise would be impossible.

Thanks to business managers, schools up and down the country have new roofs, new outdoor sporting equipment, modern IT suites, minibuses, better disabled access and extra teachers. Some funds will even cover the cost of building of new classrooms or sports halls. Of course, better facilities and resources have a positive impact on learning and help improve attainment.  

Besides submitting bids, business managers are also very good at earning extra funds from the school premises – such as letting out the rooms for adult evening classes or charging local sports teams to use the school playing fields. They can also get local businesses to sponsor school teams or events. Although these are not new ideas, many schools did not benefit from them in the past simply because staff were too focused on other things or lacked the know-how. Business managers don’t waste opportunities like these.

5. Enrichment

Education is not just about attainment. It’s also about enriching children’s lives. Here, the business manager has a role to play as well. Whilst the cost of many small enrichment activities, such as school trips, are usually helped by parental contributions, some of the bigger projects are often shelved because of lack of funds.

At ESP Play, for example, we hear from many schools who are keen to develop their school playgrounds and outdoor areas. The facilities they want will enrich the lives of students in many ways: improved physical and mental health, encouraging independence, boosting social skills, developing creativity and even enabling the creation of an outdoor classroom.

The school business manager is the key person in a school to help bring these enrichment plans to fruition. Through shrewd management, finding additional funding or careful budgeting, they are the ones that have the skills to make enrichment a reality.

6. Freeing up the Head

As the leader of the school, it’s the headteacher who drives it forward. It’s their vision and passion that motivates and inspires staff and pupils to greater achievements. With this in mind, it’s worth noting that, according to the government whitepaper, The Importance of Teaching, a school business manager can free up a third of a headteacher’s time. How valuable is that in enabling a school to improve children’s education?


So, how does a school business manager add value to pupils’ education? The simple answer is that they do it in many ways. They bring in much needed funds, they make sure that existing finances are used effectively, they improve the way that resources are procured and used, and they make people work smarter and in more efficient ways. Through this, they ensure that funding and resources have the biggest possible impact on children’s learning and improve their overall experience of school.


Army of 20,000 Volunteers Needed To Boost Outdoor Play

Source – BBC News – By Judith Burns

An army of 20,000 volunteers will be needed for a new initiative to help children play safely outdoors, say campaigners. They will be asked to help build new playgrounds, staff existing ones, run play schemes and street parties. The government has given £2m to help local groups boost outdoor play in their communities. Campaign group Play England says children should be able to play outside after school or in the holidays.

The group’s director Catherine Prisk said: “Playing outside, chalking on the pavement. climbing trees and riding your bike are simple pleasures that many of today’s children are missing out on. “Play is essential for children’s health and happiness now, and for making friends, building key skills for the future and for feeling you are part of a community.”

‘Never climbed a tree’

The money, from the Big Society Fund, will be divided among 17 local and national organisations dedicated to improving facilities and opportunities for play. The organisations will match fund the government award. According to Clare Colvine of Play England, part of the National Children’s Bureau, volunteers will be asked to help according to their skills. “For example one person could be asked to help dig a paddling pool but someone with good web skills might be asked to construct an online map of outdoor play facilities in particular area,” she said.

A growing body of research has found that today’s children do not have the same chances to play outside as their parents. For example a survey published by Play England last year showed that one third of today’s children had never built a den or climbed a tree. One in ten said they had never ridden a bike. Figures from the same survey, conducted by OnePoll last June, revealed that seven out of 10 families felt that taking their children to an outside space to play was a real treat.

Minister for civil society Nick Hurd said: “this is all part of our drive to create a bigger stronger society where people are empowered to make a difference to their community.” The 17 organisations involved have formed the Free Time Consortium which will not only improve play in their own areas but produce resource and information packs for other groups hoping to follow suit.

The consortium includes groups in Tyneside, Manchester, Birmingham, London, Milton Keynes and Plymouth


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