• You have just installed a clamber stack in the playground. For the uninitiated, what is this?
It’s a sort of climbing frame; a set of wood poles arranged in a pick-up-sticks fashion. It allows the children to take risks, but in a safe way. It’s just over two metres tall and has plenty for them to hang on to, as well as ropes and all sorts. The children love it!
• Why did you install it?
We found that since returning to school after lockdown that we needed to work on resilience and socialisation with the children as a priority; things like taking turns and being outside. So we wanted there to be something inviting when they returned to school that was accessible to all ages. As a school community we wanted to be really pro-active, and not just change the academic curriculum. We knew it was important to provide opportunities for the children to interact and to get involved in what they might have just perceived as team games. As well as the clamber stack we also have a daily kilometre, a trim trail and a MUGA [multi use games area].
• How has it helped?
There has been a rise in mental health issues because of lockdown and we know that there is a strong link between exercise and improvements to mental health. So when the children are beating their own personal record in the daily kilometre , or taking managed risks on the clamber stack or playing as a team in the MUGA, that all builds together to make them feel better about themselves.
• How did you fund the project?
We were lucky to receive a legacy from a very kind parishioner, and then there was a grant from our FSA (Families and Staff Association). They are a small but really committed group and we’re looking for more people to join them. Also, a group of staff and parents took part in the Great South Run and raised money. The school council was determined that this would happen and that we could ensure that all the children could play together. Chris Eyres, our PE coordinator, has been spearheading this project, along with Isaac Haskell, our assistant head teacher, and Sarah Brown, our business manager.
• What benefits have you seen?
We’ve noticed a big improvement in the children’s sense of self-esteem. We have also had training from the Regis School to launch our playground activities leaders, which is our year-five children working with our years one and two children to design games and to play. Early years have been especially badly hit by lockdown; they missed so much. We’re also launching peer mentoring to help children develop the confidence to join in. The mentors benefit too from working with others, developing empathy and skills like negotiation and listening. We’re helping them to understand that exercise is important to everyone to keep mentally and physically healthy.