Lunch Time Play at Inverallochy School

18 July 2013 · 3 comments

in Developing School Grounds & Outdoor Spaces, Health & Wellbeing, Outdoor Play

Just before the summer holidays began, I was back up at Inverallochy School. Three years ago, the children and staff  began the process of developing their school grounds. When they began, the grounds looked like this:

June 2010

June 2010

And now they look more like this photo which is taken from almost the same spot!

June 2013

June 2013

It was a lovely day and so I thought I would see what was going down at lunchtime outside. The following pictures depict a lovely scene which typifies their approach to play. Enjoy the show!

How many children can you spot in this photo?

How many children can you spot in this photo?

The bore pipes remain hugely popular and get moved all over the grass and playground. The children use the half pipe as a seat, a rocker and it also gets balanced vertically upright and used as a tiny cubby. It is a much-loved piece of kit.

Half Pipe Happiness

Half Pipe Happiness

Below you can see the nursery area. It is not sectioned off, so children of any age can access the equipment. Likewise, the nursery-aged children can access all the the school grounds.

Nursery Area

Nursery Area

On Thursdays, the nursery children spend the whole session outside from start to finish. This allows for children to explore at leisure and also to get to know the older children. The nursery staff are therefore around during the lunchtime. The girl in the photo below spent ages investigating this puddle. She put her foot in it to measure the depth and also enjoyed just looking at it.

Exploring the muddy puddle

Exploring the muddy puddle

The mud kitchen is right beside the muddy puddle. It is a great way of repurposing unwanted items such as pots, pans and even a school table. The water barrel hand pump provides a ready supply of water to add oodles of possibilities to the play.

Mud Kitchen

Mud Kitchen

Here’s a view from the mud kitchen. In every direction there’s something interesting going on…

Look at the range of equipment available for play

Look at the range of equipment available for play

The 32-tonne sandpit is like having a real beach at the school. Every time I visit something different is going on down there.

Got a sandpit? Why not add a few natural loose parts?

Got a sandpit? Why not add a few natural loose parts?

The older children play hard and well too. There’s a tarmac space for football, but generally the children play in various different parts of the ground. After the summer holidays, the school will be auditing the children’s perceptions of the grounds and mapping different activities. This will be a repeat of the initial audit and mapping exercise undertaken three years earlier so that the impact of the grounds developments can be observed.

Getting tied up with tape!

Getting tied up with tape!

If you look carefully behind the group in the picture above, you will see that much of the grass has been left to grow long. Not only does this save time mowing, it is better for wildlife and increasing biodiversity. Again, this simple measure has increased the play value too. The children crouch and hide and play all sorts of games there.

A group of older girls as the gathering circle

A group of older girls as the gathering circle

And sometimes it’s nice just to be able to hang out with your friends!

Pockets of play activity!

Pockets of play activity!

During wet weather, the children are given a choice as to whether they go out to play or stay inside. There are always plenty who prefer being outside. The children bring wellies for playing on the field which does get very wet and muddy especially during the winter months.

The joy of being upside down

The joy of being upside down

There is one adult who supervises outside. It is a classroom assistant who has a nursery nurse qualification. She is extremely good at facilitating the children’s play. I’m sure her approach contributes to the overall feel good factor about the lunchtimes.

I hope this gives you a flavour of the potential of a playspace for children in primary school too. I’d love to know about any other positive examples or just your thoughts on this type of play provision within primary schools.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Kierna July 19, 2013 at 08:57

Brilliant to see a whole playground in use & how the different ages engage with it. I take it, though as they only need one supervisor we’re talking small numbers of children. Also isn’t it interesting & telling that the supervisor has her Nursery Nurse training, such a pity that qualification has been lost, as the NVQ doesn’t give that same in depth knowledge.

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Juliet Robertson July 19, 2013 at 09:07

Hi Kierna

The school has 5 primary classes and a nursery class (running 2 sessions back-to-back daily). There are just under 100 primary children. There has never been the same level of supervision in Scotland as in other parts of the UK and teachers are not expected to undertake playground duties as their breaks and lunchtime is unpaid.

I do think this is an issue for schools. Out of school care clubs and play schemes have much better supervision levels and this has to be borne in mind when considering play in schools.

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