How to Make School Playgrounds Safer

Make School Playgrounds Safer

Kids will be kids and accidents happen - while there’s truth in these old sayings, it doesn’t mean a school can’t make a playground safer and minimise the risk of accident or injury. In this post, we look at a number of effective things schools can do to increase outdoor safety.

Reduce bullying by ending boredom

Bullying and the occasional fights that result because of it, is most likely to happen in the playground where supervision is limited and children are free to move around. According to a study commissioned by the Royal Bank of Scotland, there is a direct correlation between incidents of bullying and children having nothing to do during breaktimes. Upgrading a playground to provide greater opportunity for engaging play can have a dramatic impact. The Landscapes for Learning charity reported that schools that made improvements to outdoor facilities, like installing exciting, modern climbing frames, reduced bullying by almost 65% and saw vandalism fall by more than a quarter.

Manage space to minimise accidents

Poor use of space creates the potential for one playground activity to clash with another and cause unnecessary accidents. It's easy for a child chasing after a football, for example, to crash into someone playing with a skipping rope nearby. There are numerous other places where this can happen. The way to minimise the risk of accident and injury is to design the playground so that it has separate activity zones.

Placing physical activities involving climbing and running away from each other prevents those taking part from getting in each other’s way. Additionally, landscaping, fencing and pathways can be used to demarcate the zones and if needed, physically prevent children from getting from one zone to another unless via a safe, designated route that is out of harm’s way. You can even do this to keep older children away from younger ones. Stuck for what you can achieve with playground design? Visit our inspiration page.  

Playground essentials that prevent rulebreaking

While all schools and nurseries have playground rules designed to prevent people from getting hurt, sometimes the playground lacks facilities that encourage children to follow those rules. Steps, walls and windowsills, for example, are comfortable places to sit outdoors, so even if a school bans this on safety grounds, it is no surprise that some children will try to sit there, day after day, if there is nowhere else to go. And if there are no picnic tables or bins, children will eat where they can and leave litter that can be hazardous and attract vermin.

With adequate facilities installed, the children are less inclined to sit and eat where they shouldn’t or leave the place untidy. There is a wide range of playground seating available today, from simple benches and picnic tables to elaborate octagonal shelters, and it’s reasonably priced and long lasting too.

Safe playground surfacing

A lot of playground accidents occur because of issues with worn or unsuitable playground surfaces. Worn asphalt or tarmac can develop potholes or have loose stones that increase the risk of someone tripping up or falling; concrete flags used on many school pathways can easily suffer from treacherous black ice in winter, hard surfaces under climbing frames increase the potential for injury if someone falls; and grassy banks that look idyllic in the summer sunshine become slippery quagmires in the rain.

Thankfully, playground surfacing has advanced significantly in recent times and many of the risks associated with asphalt, tarmac and concrete can be eradicated. Resin-bound gravel is a superior, hard surface alternative as the resin reduces the potential for erosion or potholes. Meanwhile, block paving is less slippery in icy conditions, rubber mulch and wetpour provide cushioning to lessen the risk of injury from falling, and grass matting or artificial grass ensure green areas don’t become a hazardous mud bath.

Keep equipment in tip top condition

If you have playground equipment, keeping it in good condition and making sure it is in proper working order is essential to ensure that it is safe to play on. Outdoor play equipment naturally gets heavy use and, over time, will need some maintenance to keep it up to standard and to prolong its longevity.

To ensure your playground equipment complies with BS EN1176 and remains fit for purpose, you should check it regularly and have an annual playground inspection by a qualified RPII inspector. ESP Play provides an RPII playground inspection service.

Conclusion

Keeping children safe is the first priority for schools and this includes minimising the risk of bullying or injuries in the playground. Hopefully, from reading this article, you’ll have a better understanding of how this can be achieved.

For more information, visit our Products and Services page.

 

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Playground Shade – 7 Tips To Keep Kids Safe in the Sun

keepig children safe in the sun

Summer is here, the temperature is rising and everyone wants to get out into the playground. While this is great for our wellbeing and vitamin D levels, there are times when the heat can be overbearing and the UV levels too high for young skin. So, aside from sunscreen and hats, how do we ensure the kids can get outside, stay cool and get some shade? Here are some tips to help.

1. Clever playground design

How hot a playground becomes depends upon where the light comes from at the warmest parts of the day. Clever playground design can take this into consideration, using existing buildings, trees and hedges to create play zones that provide shelter from the brightest sun. Zones can also be placed away from sun traps where a lack of air flow prevents a cooling breeze from moderating the temperature. This is particularly important for areas where physical activities take place, such as playing on climbing frames or taking part in team games.

2. Change surfacing colour

Traditional playground surfacing, like asphalt, tends to be black, a colour that rather than reflecting light, absorbs it. Studies in the US have discovered that in playgrounds where the outdoor temperature reaches over 30 degrees, the surface of the asphalt exceeded 50 degrees. That heat gets released back into the air and can make playground temperatures unbearable, especially if there is no breeze.

Today, however, there is a whole variety of different playground surfacing available and most of these come in a range of different colours. Choosing a lighter colour for sun trap areas can help regulate air temperature on hot days.

3. Add greenery

Using trellises and planters to add some greenery to a playground can also help moderate temperatures. By adding a touch of nature, you create a microclimate in your playground. Not only do living walls, climbers and plants provide shade to people, they stop surfaces getting hot and warming up the air in the playground. In addition, plants also go through the process of evapotranspiration, where water is released and then evaporated into the microclimate to keep it cooler. Adding greenery to school walls helps keep both the playground and the school cooler during the hot summer months.

4. Water play

There’s nothing better when you’re feeling hot than to stick your hands into cold water. It has an instant cooling and refreshing effect. Having water in the playground also helps keep the area cooler as it absorbs heat from the air and cools through evaporation.

The great thing about water play is that it’s fun and kids just love to do it. Thankfully, there are quite a few ways to introduce this into your playground, such as sand and water play and magnetic water walls. If you have a nature area, you can also add a water feature.

5. Pergolas

A pergola is a great way to add shade that lets some of the sunlight through. With planters, you can grow climbers up the side and across the beams to create a beautifully dappled area for children to cool off in. There are now pergolas specially designed for schools, large enough to accommodate whole groups of pupils, some with planters or shaded covers built in. There are even large pergolas that come with seating and decked floors.

6. Sail shades

Sail shades are a great way to protect children from the sun during summer and give shelter from the rain for the rest of the year. Cost-effective for what they achieve, many schools have incorporated them into their playground designs. With the largest sail shades covering up to 64 square metres, they offer protection for lots of children while enabling them to keep playing.

7. Shelters

Perfect for both outdoor lessons and shaded play, the latest playground shelters come in a range of sizes and designs from small play huts to large octagonal shelters that accommodate a whole class of children. What’s more, they provide a range of features to suit the needs of different schools. From simple shelters with just a roof, to more sophisticated versions with decked floors, side walls and built-in seating. A great place to keep children protected from the sun on hot days and somewhere to keep a little bit warmer and drier during autumn and winter.

Conclusion

Keeping children cool and protected from UV is important during the hottest days of the school year. Hopefully, these tips have shown you that there are plenty of ways you can make your playground environment more comfortable and safer for your pupils.

For more information, visit our Products page.

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How to Reduce Playground Injuries and Legal Claims

reduce playground injury

As many headteachers will now be aware, the ‘had an accident at work?’ claims culture has now spread to schools, with no-win-no-fee legal firms encouraging parents to sue for accidents on school premises or during trips. To help reduce the potential for accidents in the playground and to mitigate the risk of a legal claim, here are some tips that schools may find helpful.

Get playground equipment annually inspected

Failure to maintain playground equipment or ensure that it is fit for use can lead to accidents and result in a negligence claim. Indeed, it is one of the first things a lawyer will seek to find out. For this reason, schools should undertake a full inspection of all their playground equipment annually. This should be carried out by a fully qualified RPII inspector who can ensure the playground complies with BS EN1176.

The inspector will also provide the school with a written report, which can be used as evidence that an appropriate inspection has taken place. This report details the inspection findings for each piece of playground apparatus and gives details of any maintenance work or repairs required to make it comply with BSEN1176. When you use ESP Play Annual Playground Inspection Services to undertake your inspections, you’ll have the peace of mind of knowing we are a highly experienced manufacturer and installer of playground equipment.

Use the right playground surfacing

There is a range of different playground surfaces available today. While all of them have their uses, which type you need depends upon who is using them, what they are used for and the type of ground and drainage you are laying them on. Getting the right surfacing in place can vastly reduce the chance of injury and legal claims.

The right surfacing can cut injuries in many ways. Softer surfacing, such as rubber mulch or wetpour, is ideal for putting under climbing frames; artificial grass acts much like real grass but with the added advantage that it doesn’t turn to slippery mud in the rain; resin-bound gravel, meanwhile, is more hardwearing than asphalt and less susceptible to developing potholes.

Choose well-made, high-quality playground equipment

Choosing better made, higher-quality school playground equipment can bring many benefits. For a start, the children will appreciate it more if they have better things to play on. They’ll also get more benefit from playing on it, whether that’s increased physical activity, improved social and physical skills or greater enjoyment.

In addition, the equipment will be safer to use, last longer and be more robust – all important for keeping accidents to a minimum and reducing the chance of someone making a legal claim.

Make sure pupils are always supervised

While accidents can occur whether a playground is supervised or not, should a parent make a claim, they have an increased chance of being successful if their child was left unsupervised at the time. This is because supervisors can prevent accidents if they see children behaving in a way that could result in injury – though sometimes things happen so quickly, this is not always possible. Just as importantly, a supervisor can react quickly if an accident takes place. The quicker they react, the less chance that an injury will be serious or that others could get injured too.

Generally, schools are excellent at providing playground supervision, however, when this relies on teaching and support staff, those people aren’t always able to get to their allocated areas before the children. Putting senior leaders and staff who are free before break times on the rota can help ensure there is always someone there on time.

Display safety signs in the playground

Schools are very good at putting up safety signs around the building, reminding children which side of the corridor to walk on and not to run, etc. You can also do this to promote safer behaviour in your playground. You can put up signs to limit the number of children on climbing apparatus, to control the direction of movement, to keep ball games away from windows, to stop children climbing on walls and anything else you deem important.

Displaying signs in the playground and on individual items of equipment is a clear indication and constant reminder that certain behaviours are not allowed and most children will behave as directed. It will also remind supervisors to intervene when they see the displayed rules being broken. From a claims perspective, a parent might be less inclined to make a claim if the accident is the result of the child breaking a rule which was clearly displayed.

Conclusion

Thankfully, legal claims against schools are still few and far between. That said, kids being kids, there is always going to be some risk of an injury, whether that’s a scrape, a bruise or a bump or something worse, like a broken limb. Hopefully, the advice given here will help your school reduce the potential for injury in the playground and minimise the chance of a legal claim.

For more information about our wide range of playground equipment, surfaces and inspection service, visit our Products and Services page.

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Outdoor Classrooms – A Breath of Fresh Air for Post-Lockdown Schools

outdoor classrooms

The long-awaited return to school has now commenced and staff and pupils across the country are facing school days which are radically different to those they remember. The need to prevent the spread of COVID-19 will place many restrictions on schools, impacting not only the delivery of the curriculum but on school life as a whole. An outdoor classroom can make a big difference, providing a safer learning environment in which children can experience a little bit of normality. Here, we’ll take a closer look at modern, outdoor classrooms.

Why schools need outdoor classrooms

Life in the post-lockdown school is going to be far different than what it was before the pandemic. Movement will be severely restricted, both within the school itself and inside the classroom. In secondary schools, where pupils are used to moving from lesson to lesson, many will now find it is the teachers who move while the children stay put. Not only will this prevent pupils from having access to the specialist equipment needed to study the curriculum effectively; it also means they’ll spend most of the day stuck in the same room. And with social distancing essential within the classroom, children of all school ages will have far fewer opportunities to move around or interact.

The effects of this upon pupil wellbeing and academic progress could be significant. Children are much more likely to become anxious about going to school and frustrated, even bored, during the school day. This can impact their mental wellbeing and impede their motivation, especially when the lack of subject-specific equipment, like science or technology apparatus that can’t be moved from classroom to classroom, prevents teachers delivering the curriculum properly.

In such a stifling environment, the outdoor classroom offers a breath of fresh air. Indeed, the circulation of outdoor air, combined with the additional space pupils have to learn, means many of the restrictions enforced inside the classroom can be relaxed. Movement will be freer, with children able to work in small groups more effectively, perhaps carrying out more experimental and investigative work that the new normal won’t permit indoors. The need to keep voices quiet will not be so urgent, either.

At the same time, just taking a break from the same indoor space, even if it is just for a small part of the school day, can break the monotony of being at the same desk, in the same classroom, six hours a day, five days a week. It offers the potential for increased mental stimulation, improved motivation and better wellbeing.

Equipping the modern outdoor classroom

While there is nothing wrong with getting pupils to hoick their chairs out into the playground for a lesson, there are plenty of more modern and stimulating alternatives. Today, there is a plethora of outdoor learning equipment available, including subject-specific resources covering many areas of the EYFS, primary and secondary curricula.

Starting with the basics, playground seating comes in a wide variety, ranging from fun mushroom seats and storytelling chairs for younger learners to full-class size, octagonal shelters with built-in seats, whiteboards, windbreaking backrests and that essential roof that lets you use it in most weather conditions. This, however, is only scratching the surface; there are tables, benches, amphitheatres, handwriting tables, sit down easels and much more available.

When it comes to delivering the curriculum, there is a multitude of outdoor classroom equipment available for teachers to use. This includes interchangeable, subject-specific work panels, affixed to permanent posts, that cater for almost every curriculum area. Able to be taken down at the end of each lesson for cleaning and storage, with the post then left for the next teacher, they are an ideal solution for outdoor learning. They can be used to display learning objectives and instructions or for pupils to write, draw, measure, calculate and take notes. Subject-specific versions are available for art, design and technology, English, geography, history, maths, MFL, music, PE and science, and include features such as abacuses, coordinate grids, timelines, moving clock faces and much more.

There are also more elaborate types of equipment, such as weather stations for measuring and monitoring precipitation, temperature and wind, or biology investigation tables that can be used to look at soil samples and see how plant root systems grow underground. When it comes to music and drama, there are outdoor stages to perform on, amphitheatres to perform within and fun, outdoor, percussion instruments, like xylophones and drainpipe drums, to make music with.

Conclusion

An outdoor classroom offers a touch of normality to post-lockdown school life. Working in a safer outdoor environment with fewer restrictions and much more space to learn can bring much-needed relief from the monotony of being stuck in the same space. As a result, it can improve pupil wellbeing and motivation and, when well-equipped with subject-specific, outdoor classroom equipment, gives teachers far more scope to deliver the curriculum.

For more information, visit our Outdoor Curriculum page.

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Why Zoned School Playgrounds Have New Importance

zoned school playgrounds

Zoned school playgrounds have become increasingly popular in modern playground design, providing a range of benefits for pupils and schools alike. However, following the lockdown, they have taken on new importance, providing enhanced social distancing and increased safety. Here, we’ll look at zoned playgrounds and their advantages over traditional schoolyards.

What are zoned school playgrounds?

A zoned playground, quite simply, is a school playground where the equipment provided for the children is laid out in discrete activity areas, strategically placed to improve safety and enhance amenity.

Zones can be created for different types of pupil or activity. So, for example, a school can have different zones for EYFS, KS1 and KS2 pupils, each with age-appropriate equipment, or it can create separate zones for sports, climbing, roleplay, creativity, nature, sensory play and so forth.

Built-in safety

One of the key problems with traditional playgrounds is that activities often overlap and this can lead to potential safety issues, such as footballs flying off the pitch and knocking a pupil off a climbing wall or a pupil with skipping ropes tripping up someone playing tig in the same area. By putting these activities into separate zones, you reduce the risk of these accidents happening – especially when the designer can make sure that potentially hazardous zones are located away from each other.

Covid-19 safety

With the need to maintain social distancing in the playground, zoned play areas have developed new importance, as they enable the school to better manage pupil bubbles. Children in different bubbles can be allocated a different zone in which to play and because it is within a defined area, children will better understand the limits of where they can play and the apparatus they are allowed to play on. This also makes the job of supervising much easier for staff and enables pupils from each bubble to enter and leave the playground more safely.

To ensure pupils get to participate in the full range of playground activities on offer, schools can rotate the bubbles from zone to zone on different days, making sure, of course, that the equipment is properly cleaned at the end of each day. Where there are staggered playtimes, cleaning will need to take place between the change-over.

The other advantage is that popular apparatus, such as climbing frames, obstacle courses and play towers, can be a temptation too much for children. If everyone heads for the same piece of equipment, social distancing goes out the window. Zoning prevents this happening, as children will know which zone they are allocated to and, if rotation is in place, will know they’ll get their turn eventually.

Zones for inclusion

One of the other major benefits of having a zoned school playground is that it can improve inclusivity. At the design stage, schools have the ability to consider the type of equipment they need to ensure pupils of all ages, abilities and interests are catered for. The playground designer can then use this to create purpose-built zones that address those needs and place them in the most appropriate location. For example, a quiet area can be developed for children with autism and placed away from the louder and busier activity zones, perhaps even with its own entrance back into the school building. Sensory areas can be created too, giving pupils a calm space in which to experience a variety of sounds, smells, textures and colours.

Similarly, sporty kids can be given zones with pitch markings and basketball nets and thrill-seekers can have zones containing Trim Trails obstacle courses, Tangled rope climbing equipment or a Freeflow climbing system. You can have messy play areas with mud kitchens, sandpits and magnetic water walls, imaginative roleplay zones with fantasy play towers, wigwams and pirate style playboats and creative zones with outdoor drawing boards, performance stages and outdoor musical percussion instruments.

For the more laid back pupils, you can even create a nature zone with planters, trellises and bug houses and furnish it with picnic tables, an octagonal shelter or some all-weather artificial grass to sit on and chat with friends.

Not only does zoning enable schools to cater for all these different needs and interests; it also allows the designer to make them more accessible. Safe pathways can be created to ensure all pupils, including wheelchair users, can easily get to all the apparatus without having to risk travelling through a busy space; while accessibility features can be built in so pupils, even if they cannot fully participate in activities or make full use of the equipment, are close enough not to feel socially excluded from their friendship group.

Conclusion

Zoned school playgrounds can transform a school’s outdoor space. They improve safety, assist with social distancing and provide schools with the opportunity to create accessible zones that cater for the needs and interests of all pupils.

To see what you can achieve with a zoned playground or to find out more about playground design, visit our Inspiration page.

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