Saturday, 4 April 2015

Five top tips to make the most of your school playground.

School playground game
 Redesigning your playground with PE and sport in mind will help encourage pupils to stay fit and healthy. Photograph: Alamy
There has never been a more important time for physical education (PE), school sport and health-related activity in schools. Research shows that half of all seven year-olds do not get enough exercise and one in three young people leave primary school overweight.
From an early age, lifelong patterns of positive behaviour and involvement can be established through participation in physical activity and play.
Both informal and structured activity is essential for the mental, physical, emotional and social development of every young person. Through such activity, children develop movement and coordination skills, social skills linked to communication and language, and creativity and cooperation – all essential tools to aid successful learning in the curriculum and beyond.
It is essential to create the right environment within school for the development of the physical literacy of all pupils. That is why having the right playground is so important. Here are five key points to help maximise your playground space to inspire young people to undertake physical activity:

1. What does your playground need?

A needs analysis of your playground will help inform you of what improvements can be made. The analysis should focus on gathering and reviewing the information, consulting end users and key stakeholders, and establishing priority requirements. It is important that you are inclusive throughout the process and make a special effort to understand the requirements of children with special educational needs (SEN) and disabilities to incorporate these into your plan. Consider the following key questions: How well is the space used? Are there any small areas that are not currently used? Are there any awkward-shaped spaces? Are there spaces between existing buildings that have always been under-utilised? What is it currently used for? Who is using it? Who is not using it? What would the pupils like it to be used for?

2. Review your activity

A review of your school’s current delivery of PE, school sport and healthy active lifestyles provision will help to identify areas of strength and those in need of development. It is crucial to consider three key areas of physical education, school sport and physical activity. Questions to ask include: What is the current use of the existing space? What is the current use of other space that could be included within the new area? What is the potential use of the new space?

3. Team effort

Engaging the right people at this early stage will ensure they are committed to the project. The key stakeholders that should be consulted from the very start are: governors, headteachers, teachers, teaching assistants, lunchtime supervisors, parents and pupils. They can be consulted in a variety of ways including: meetings and class discussions; school sports council(s); playground committee; questionnaires; observation studies and pupil drawings.

4. Design and build

It is always a good idea to appoint a contractor to work with you to check the feasibility of the components and configurations selected. They can also agree with you on the most suitable combination given any site constraints and the available budget. The options can be tailored to meet the specific needs of your school site. Key considerations within your design should include the space, the surface and the storage.

5. Plan the schedule

Once the installation is complete, your pupils will be excited and eager to use it immediately. Plan how the space will be used across each week, prior to completion, to ensure quick and easy access. To maximise use, consider programming use of the playground at all possible times (before school, during PE lessons, at break and lunchtimes, and after school) and consider its appropriate use by community groups too at weekends and during holidays.
This year, more than one million young people will be participating in National School Sport Week from 22–26 June. Thousands of schools across the country will make a pledge to get more involved in physical activity, school sport and celebrate school achievement. To receive free resources, toolkits and ideas to help run an exciting sporting week that will inspire all your pupils and the chance to win visits from Olympic and Paralympic athletes, click here.
The Youth Sport Trust has a range of resources and programmes aimed at helping member schools improve the quality of the PE and sport activities offered at their school. More information on membership can be found here.


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