These days we always seem to want more – more likes on Instagram and Facebook, more clothes, more money, more food. Ask a school and their answer would be money. Money to buy teachers and resources, money to improve the environment for the pupils and give them extra space. Unfortunately this isn’t always (ever?) possible so we need to make the most of what we’ve got.
Playground or even outdoor space in a school is often a forgotten resource and one that is neglected and under invested in. Despite this it is an area that every pupil in the school spends at least an hour in every day. If the space is small it can be overcrowded which can lead to conflict or even injury. There are things that can be done!
- Your outdoor space is probably split into playground and field areas if you are lucky. Traditionally a child’s play space is restricted to the harder, clean the playground during the winter months. Parents (and more importantly cleaners) do not appreciate school shoes covered in mud so your whole school has to play on an area that could be less than half the total amount of outdoor space. Do the children mind getting muddy? No. The only real problem here is the choice of clothing. Allow them to change into wellies if they want to go on the field and you have instantly at least doubled your outdoor space. Add a coat and you can go out in all weathers too!
- If wellies are not an option or you are not lucky enough to have that additional field, you need to make the most of what you have got. If you have too many children to play safely on an area together then why not split them? Staggered lunchtimes mean that younger children can play and eat first whilst the older ones are still working. Key Stage One can use the playground whilst Key Stage Two are eating in the hall. By delaying lunch break by just 15 – 30 minutes you can limit the amount of time everyone is out on your small playground area together.
- At lunchtimes children are traditionally allowed to go and play outside. As we have already acknowledged, this often results in your whole school accessing your limited outdoor space together for a time. Although we will always advocate the need for physical activity for our children, this does not need to be all breaktime, every breaktime. A variety of lunchtime club clubs offered indoors will take some of your children away from the outdoor space and alleviate your problem. Even 15 children indoors doing chess club or 30 in the choir will help. Clubs don’t have to be run by your teachers either. I have heard of ‘Gardening Grannies’ before and our local church run a ‘Shine club’ doing crafts and Bible Study as well.
- If your school is limited as to the outdoor space available, you need to make sure that every last bit is used to its best value. The game of football may well keep 20 active boys occupied but it also takes over the whole playground and where are the other 160 children meant to go? If you give the space over to 4-square, Lightning feet and Quick Fit markings you instantly have 60 children in the same space. Add bats and balls, skipping, ‘What’s the time Mr Wolf’ and a reading area around the edge and you have over half the school safely occupied.