Planning your first playground project can be exciting and overwhelming in equal measures. You may have been asked by your Headteacher to come up with a proposal as part of your performance management, or you may have identified areas of the playground which need an update and are keen to take a proposal to the Head and Governors as part of your subject leadership.
No matter which route and why you are thinking of undertaking a playground project, there are so many things to think about, it can be hard to know where to begin. It can be so challenging looking at the different items available and trying to work out budgets, whether they would fit, and what the impact on learning and play would be. So, if you are planning your first playground project, here are some key areas to consider before you start!
Purpose of the Project
The initial thing to think about when planning your project, is to answer the question ‘why?’. Why are you considering making changes and what benefits will it bring. In order to make the correct choice of equipment and markings, you need to know what your end goal is. Is your aim to make the children more active at playtimes? Have you identified a need for more learning apparatus in the outdoor environment? Is your project going to be based around building and developing different sporting opportunities for children?
Once you have settled on what your purpose is, you then need to consider the age range and size of groups of children who will use it. Some items you can purpose (such as a Wooden Teepee) are great for small groups, whilst the Outdoor Classroom would be fantastic for the whole school. You might be considering EYFS or KS1 outdoor settings only, in which case a mud kitchen or sandpit would be ideal. However, if you are thinking about playtimes and improving behaviour, you might be wanting to consider trim trails at different heights in order for all children to be able to access them.
Another point to consider when thinking about the purpose is if your ideas are the same as the rest of the teachers or the children. If you are considering learning apparatus, then it is worth consulting teaching staff in a staff meeting to see what their requirements are. However, if it is play equipment you are after, then consider having a meeting with the lunchtime supervisors as well as the School Council. It may surprise you that what you as an adult feel is needed isn’t what the children would like! Their voices and ideas may take you in a completely different way.
Think About Landscape and Space
Once you have decided on the end goal or aim of the project, you then need to consider the landscape and space you have. If you are lucky enough to have a large open space with both a hard surface playground and a field, then you will have more scope to add in larger items or to play around with the space. If, however, you only have a hard surface playground, then you will need to be more conservative about the items you are looking at purchasing.
When looking at the grounds, it is a good idea to watch it being used by the children at playtimes. Are there areas that they never use and can be utilised successfully? Is there equipment that they always gravitate towards, and how can you then build upon this. If you have a field that you are planning on installing items onto, remember to think about sports tracks in the Summer. You may already have one marked out and you don’t want to be installing a trim trail over the running area.
The space needs to be considered carefully to make sure you get the maximum benefits. If you have a large mound or hill then to have that flattened in order to install a piece of equipment might push your budget over the top! However, try to think creatively too. If you have a large tree in the middle of an area, perhaps there is a way to incorporate that into your installations?
Once you have a plan together then it is the time to consider the budget. At the current time, budgets in schools are tight. However, there are always ways and means to fundraise or to use current funding to help.
If the aim of your playground project is to increase sports within your school or tackle children’s activity time, then you could consider using the Sports Premium which has doubled for 2017-18. You will need to think about what the impact of the project will be both on the children in your school currently but also that it will be sustainable for years to come. You will also need to be able to document what impact your project has had.
However, if your aim is to improve children’s playtimes, then it is definitely worth considering asking your Parent Teacher Association to see if they would be willing to fund all or part of it. You could form a working party formed up of PTA members and members of the School Council to allow all interested parties to have a voice in the project. Failing that, discuss with your Headways that the children could fundraise themselves for the project!
Get Expert Help
When you have your ideas and budget in place for your playground project, and the sign off of the Headteacher, then is the time to get in expert help. Using experts at playground design, you will be able to give them the proposal of what you are looking for, and they will create a design for you to take back to the interested parties.
The award-winning designers at Schoolscapes develop outstanding 3D play space designs as standard and this will help to visualise your ideas and to show the opportunities you have available to you. By using experts, you will have the advantage of their specialist knowledge, especially when it comes to health and safety. They will give you a timescale on when you can expect the project to be completed, and will make sure that the equipment you have selected is appropriate both for your project and for the learning opportunities you are wishing to increase.
So when you are planning your first playground project, make sure to consider the above points, and you can guarantee that your first project will go swimmingly, and all interested parties will be happy that a great job has been done by all!