Appleshaw Primary School approached the team following the appointment of a new Headteacher. With a new hand at the helm the Head was keen to make changes to improve and move the school grounds forward, although understandably not upset anyone in the process. The grounds were described by many as perfect and a real oasis of green open space, but hard surfaced areas were restrictive in size, and for much of the year play space felt constrained to this playground only.

A previously constructed “outdoor classroom” was also underused and had become a dumping ground for equipment for PE and unused items of furniture from within the school. Outdoor learning was happening beneath the canopy for Year R but for the rest of the school the rich natural landscape that the school was set within wasn’t being used to its fullest potential.

Mr Hickman the new Headteacher was keen to address all of these issues as he could see what a valuable asset the school had in its grounds. Teaching staff too were keen to make learning outside of the classroom more spontaneous, but needed resources and manageable spaces to enable this to happen.

Our solution

With funding cuts happening to the school many of these aspirations and ideas might have been deemed impossible, however developing a Strategy Plan for the grounds has enabled the schools PTA to now have a clear vision to fundraise towards. By sharing that document within the schools wider community £8k was raised within the first year to locate a Yurt within the ground. This provided an additional year round learning space, a quiet space during lunchtimes, and a space perfect for small group worship. Location of this was vital and through the workshop approach all reached the decision on its best siting.

The Landscape Strategy process has also enabled senior management within the school to now realise that not all improvements need to cost a lot of money and are unattainable. Long overdue removal of large scale physical play equipment has not resulted in the need to replace like with like. Play has been looked at in the light of the workshops and has resulted in resources developing from everyday items that now encourage creativity, team work, and problem solving, as well as physical activity. And the size of the areas for year round play have expanded to the most of the site as all children have wellies in school now to enable them to use the field area through the year.

Bringing everyone on board was part of the reason why this way of working was chosen and the Strategy Plan created continues to be a vital tool within the School Improvement Plan.

The benefits of considering the site as a whole are considerable. It enabled us to look more critically at how we use all aspects of the outdoor environment, producing a strategy for the future that ensures cohesion, clarity and most importantly a clear purpose.
Ian Hickman > Headteacher of Park Junior School
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