Case studies

Case Study: Foundation - large tarmac playground

Firs Hill Community Primary School, Sheffield

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.

How was change brought about?

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.

The new scheme includes:

  • Grass lawn with artificial grass mound for all-year-round use
  • Large covered sandpit
  • Lots of low walls in stone and wood for sitting, balancing, jumping off etc
  • 'Discovery play' bark area with logs
  • Raised beds for growing vegetables
  • Robust all-year-round-interest tree and shrub planting including sensory herb and flower garden
  • Raised pond with safety grille
  • Large covered area for rainy days
  • Ramps and paths for all year round access
  • Picnic tables and storage shed
  • Parent seating

"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


… and after


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Case Study: Foundation 1 - medium sized grass play area

Case Study: Foundation 2 - small tarmac playground

Biggin Hill Primary School, Hull

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.

How was change brought about?

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.

Foundation 1 - the new scheme includes:

  • Pathways around the grass area for all-weather access
  • Bark area underneath existing trees for digging and minibeast hunting
  • Earth mounds, tyres and willow tunnels for giving varied experiences of going high, low and underneath
  • Tree copse for enhancing wildlife, hiding and discovery play
  • Pergola and sitting area
  • Raised beds for sensory plants and vegetable growing


Foundation 1 before…

… and after


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Foundation 2 - the new scheme includes:

  • Simple climbing structure with platform
  • Raised beds
  • Pergola with seating
  • Mounding
  • Paths and surfaces for all year round access

Foundation 2 before…

… and after


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Case Study: Small Pre-School Garden

Slinn Street Starters Community Pre-School, Sheffield

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 :

  • Storage and play shed
  • Pergola shelter and seating area
  • Covered sandpit
  • Raised pond with safety railing cover
  • Raised vegetable and herb beds
  • Sitting/balancing stepped sleeper beds
  • Compost bins


Pre-School Garden before…

… and after