How to Keep Pupils Safe in the Playground During Winter

The risk of injury in the schoolyard increases dramatically during the winter months when snow, ice and frost create hazardous conditions. Winter weather can make playground surfaces and outdoor play equipment very slippery and cause damage which needs to be quickly repaired. At the same time, children need to learn to behave and dress appropriately for the weather conditions they encounter. In this post, we’ll look at some of the ways to improve safety in the winter playground.

literacy and phonics

Watch out for slippery surfaces

Almost all playground surfaces are at risk from ice in one way or another. This even includes some loose-fill surfaces, like wood mulch and loose gravel which can create hard, solid surfaces when insufficient drainage causes them to freeze over. A more effective and long-term solution would be to use rubber mulch which cannot freeze. However, effective drainage is essential for all surfaces to reduce the potential for freezing, so if water isn’t draining away adequately, you may need a more detailed inspection to discover the cause so that it can be rectified.

Ice isn’t just caused by freezing water, it can also be caused by compacted snow. In the playground, this can be particularly hazardous as the more children walk on snow, the icier and more slippery it becomes – especially when the more dare-devil children start turning it into a slide. The best remedy to stop snow being turned into ice is to be proactive and grit the surfaces whenever snow is forecast. This will prevent snow from settling so it cannot be compacted. However, if ice has formed, the safest solution is to stop the surface being used until the ice has melted away. Equipment should also be tested for ice, especially climbing equipment which may need to be taken out of use in icy conditions.

One final thing you should remember is that when water turns to ice, it expands. When this happens between two surfaces, the force the expansion exerts can cause damage or erosion. The tiny gaps in asphalt and tarmac surfaces are particularly vulnerable to this form of erosion and this is why you might see potholes and loose patches of gravel after the thaw. Not only will these become worse with heavy use; they are also potential trip hazards and should be repaired quickly in order to reduce risk and cost. Newer forms of hard surfaces, like resin bound gravel, use resin as protection against freeze-thaw erosion and are therefore safer and more weather-resistant.

Get rid of snow

Although snow feels soft, it should never be considered as an adequate surface to leave under elevated play equipment like climbing frames as its slipperiness increases the risk of injury to those who land on it. Similarly, pupils are more likely to bump into equipment with snow around it or fall off structures that have snow on them. If feasible, snow should be brushed off all equipment and shovelled away from the playground surface underneath. Even once this has happened, the equipment should still be inspected to ensure it is safe enough to use, as residual water can still be a slip hazard. Remember to check things like the ladder rungs, handrails, hanging bars, balance beams, platforms, slides, stepping beams and landing areas. This is particularly important on balancing and climbing equipment where there are no additional handrails.

Managing the children

Pupils can be a hazard to themselves in wintery conditions and it is important that adequate supervision is on-hand at all times, especially around busy areas and elevated apparatus. While snowballing is permitted in some schools, this should never be the case if snow has frozen and become dangerously hard and never near windows (broken glass is almost impossible to find in snow) or near those playing on climbing equipment. Pupils should also be discouraged from running on snow as it not only increases the risk of falling, there are also more chances for collisions to occur.

While pupils should be suitably attired for outdoor play during the poor winter weather, some items of clothing can increase the risk of injury when children are playing on certain types of equipment. Gloves, for example, prevent children from safely gripping jungle bars or traversing walls, while dangling scarves and drawstrings can get caught up in some apparatus.

Finally, to prevent hazards being taken from the playground to the school building, ensure there are mats at the entrances for children to wipe their feet. Wet corridors and staircases can also be very slippery.

Conclusion

As you can see, winter weather can present a number of potential hazards to children in the playground. Hopefully, the suggestions made here will help you ensure your pupils stay safe.

If you are looking for safer surfaces for your outdoor play areas, check out our playground surfacing page.

(0)

The movement movement; it’s child’s play!

There is a movement happening around children’s development that has caught my eye recently and bodes well for future generations. We seem to becoming more aware of the developmental movement needs of children in the early stages of their development- some may say that this is just one of those cycles that comes round time and time again. I believe that sentiment to a certain extent but this time I think that it’s different; this particular movement movement seems deeper and more wide-ranging. From many examples, I will highlight two contexts that have contributed to me thinking this way in which I have had the pleasure of working in recently.

I have commented before on the benefits of a new UK Coaching framework that has children’s participation as one of four key pillars and that this has demanded that National Governing Bodies of sport think carefully about the differentiated provision for this specific audience within their ranks. I have recently completed the authoring (along with Bob Muir from Leeds Metropolitan University) of the newly introduced Level 1 coaching award (Becoming CAYPABLE) for the Rugby Football League (RFL) aimed specifically now at children’s coaches. The RFL made an expressed commitment to providing more movement-based opportunities to provide the foundation for subsequent participation and performance within rugby (http://www.therfl.co.uk/news/article/rfl-launch-new-level-1) . There has been a sacrifice here; there is perhaps not the same direct coverage of the core skills of rugby, but the RFL believe that this developmentally appropriate approach is right for their young players.

The new National Curriculum is beginning to take shape and I have recently been involved in a number of working groups that have been tasked to respond to the consultation papers that have been published in relation to Physical Education. An understandable starting point for groups to begin their reflections has been at Early Years and Key Stage 1 of a child’s education. Once again, there seems to be a consensus that developmentally appropriate movement experiences are paramount and form the foundation for lifelong participation in physical activity. Whereas the RFL have had issues of tradition and culture to address I have always felt that the subject area of Physical Education has been blighted by an over-reliance on activity areas, such as athletics, dance, gymnastics and particularly games, as the main delivery vehicle for the concepts that we feel are important to develop in children. The problem is now that the use of activity areas is so prominent that the wider developmental concepts, such as movement, have become relegated to an inferior position to the extent that the tail is wagging the dog! However, there does seem to be an acceptance that movement development and child-centred, rather than activity-centred, learning is more appropriate, particularly within the early, formative stages of a child’s development.

These two examples are both heartwarming and encouraging to me as a practitioner who is constantly searching for more inclusive and engaging forms of developmentally appropriate physical activity for children and young people. Of course, at the core of these new directions is the child’s right and need to play and what could be more simple and meaningful than that.

Dr David Morley is Head of Education at ESP, a consultant for a range of national organisations and NGBs of sport, and holds Visiting Fellow positions at both Northumbria and Leeds Metropolitan Universities.

(Commenting: OFF)

Product Enquiry