The Foundation Yard before was a bare, sloping tarmac yard with only a narrow bed on one side with a tree and a few tired shrubs. The children's play consisted of running around, hiding behind the shrubs or using resources brought outside – bats and balls etc.
The new Assistant Head at the school was keen to develop the area and got in touch with Yard Explorers for some help. Discussions with staff highlighted elements they wanted to be included and an outline design was drawn up. After consultation and approval from the governors, Head and wider school community the scheme was detailed up by Yard Explorers and built by Green Estate – a local social enterprise.
"Before, we had an area for our Foundation children that essentially was just a dead space – an uninspiring mass of concrete with nothing in it and no facilities to go out in bad weather.
We had a 'wish list' of what we wanted and Jane made the wish list come to life!
Jane has an educational viewpoint from her background as a teacher. This helped so much rather than working with a 'normal' landscape architect - she knew how the children (and staff) would interact with the space.
Now the children are outside all day, whatever the weather. They do messy play, exploring, digging... none of this was possible before.
I overheard a Y5 child say to our Head the other day
'Have you seen the new playground? It's like heaven!! Why didn't we get this?' "
Helena Reid, Assistant Head at Firs Hill
The Foundation 1 Area before was an area of tarmac next to the building which led onto a large grass area used by nursery children in a free-flow situation. The grass area however was unusable for much of the year and the tarmac area used only in a limited way for bikes and bat-and-ball type activities.
The overall space felt rather dull and un-loved.
The Foundation 2 Area was a small bare tarmac area with a narrow grassy (muddy!) strip on two sides. Surrounded by a security fence with just a sea container for storage in the corner, the area looked very bleak and uninviting.
Through consultation with staff, children and parents, a detailed report on how outdoor play could be developed immediately was produced, alongside a 'Vision Plan' a pictorial plan showing how the site could be developed over time to enhance play and learning.
Over the next two years the school brought in contractors to build many elements suggested in the plan to make fantastic creative spaces for the children to play and learn in all year round.
The garden was in a narrow strip behind a community hall and consisted simply of a concrete hard standing area, small lawn, shrub bed and sandpit. Children at the pre-school used the area more in summer but in winter usually for only half an hour or so if the weather was good.
It was pretty plain and uninspiring.
How was change brought about?
Through Jane working in the garden as a parent and playworker, a real understanding of the potential of the garden was reached. Community fundraising events followed by a bid to the Big Lottery Community Wildlife fund provided :