Many schools claim that lack of space and funds prevent them from offering great outdoor learning and play experiences for their children.
I want to share the example of Barry Island Primary School, because they have not let such obstacles stand in their way. The key to their success has been the way in which they have engaged the wider community to call on resources which they would otherwise not have had access to.
Barry Island Primary is an urban school with a playground consisting entirely of tarmac, surrounded by streets of terraced houses. Most of the pupils have very limited access to green space.
There was, however, a patch of vacant land opposite the school: an uninspiring wasteland overlooking Barry Docks, once one of the busiest coal ports in the world.
A couple of years ago the school persuaded Associated British Ports to donate the land to the school and – through hard work, community involvement and some generous donations – they have created a beautiful outdoor space that has enhanced everyone’s lives.
The local branch of the mental health charity MIND, for example, volunteered to help with the digging, as did older members of the community. This enthusiasm continues today, with several neighbours giving up their time to help maintain the garden.
It was this community involvement that enabled the school to apply for funding from a number of sources, including a leading pharmaceutical company. Pupils, their families, and friends of the school also contributed, and the money raised was put to good use with a professional landscaper, fixed play equipment, raised beds, a pond and a spectacular story-telling circle.
I love this transformation because it shows how communities really can make a difference and reap benefits. The school welcomes visitors from the local special school, local church groups and elderly residents. They are always keen to hear from anyone who’d like to get involved whether it’s reading to the children in the story telling space or putting names to wildlife!
“‘The children have space to run and move about without fear of getting hurt; there are seats where they can sit and talk to their friends, and a physically challenging timber trail. We take classes into the garden for Welsh lessons. Outdoors the children are able to talk more without disturbing their neighbours or the class next door. And they concentrate much better because they feel far less constrained”.
headteacher Janet Hayward.
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