School playgrounds

I’ve got myself involved with a group of mums from school to revamp the school playground. It’s currently an asphalt desert with a dearth of nature and things to play on and probably looks much the same as it did in Victorian times when the school was built. I’ve even seen prisons with better playgrounds than our local school. It’s really abysmal.

I brought it up last year when the kids first started at the school and no-one seemed particularly interested in the playground and instead they spent £7,000 on iPads. I think this was a waste of money but that’s a different story. So when a couple of other parents brought up the playground recently and independently of me I jumped at the chance to support them.

Our plan is to get funding through grants so the school and council don’t have to pay for any of it. It sounds like a win-win, right? However there seems to be a lot of resistance to the idea of which I don’t understand. I made the mistake of saying to a couple of teachers that the school playground is dreadful. This is the truth but I may have offended them. It’s almost as though they think the playground is pretty good just as it is and were taken aback by my suggestion. I’m not the most tactful person on the planet and I could have phrased it much better, like, “We could make some really great improvements to the playground” or “I think the children would really benefit from some things to play on and a safer surface”.

Ben thinks that the majority of teachers here have grown up in schools without proper playgrounds and so they don’t see a concrete prison as anything strange for a school. There’s probably also the fear of being sued by parents should little Johnny fall off the slide and break his arm. One argument presented to me by a teacher was that playground equipment might be subject to vandalism. How defeatest is that? Let’s not build a thing and just go and bury ourselves in the mud in case someone vandlises it.

Yesterday I was told that it’s not up to the parents, it’s up to the pupils. Yes, I wholeheartedly agree with this because if the pupils choose an asphalt desert over a proper playground then I’m Donald Trump. The teachers then organised a pupil council which I went along to and when the kids said they’d like a slide and swings they were told, “No”. So it seems that it’s not really up to the pupils after all.

But all hope is not yet lost. We are battling on. I will see how far I get before I admit defeat and give up. Play is an important part of education. Physical activity promotes children’s cognitive abilities, particularly in mathematics and reading; it’s also an essential weapon against the rise of obesity in children. It helps with the development of social skills and creativity and most importantly, it’s where friendships are formed.