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How important is outdoor space?

(31 Posts)
strawberrybubblegum Tue 11-Oct-16 21:31:27

We're looking at different primary schools for DD (starting Reception next year) and I'm finding it hard to weigh it up. I know that no school is perfect, and you have to make choices based on what you think is most important.

There's one school where the teaching and style seem really fantastic... BUT the outdoor space is very limited. The Reception playground (shared a couple of times a week with Year 1) does have some equipment, but it's right next to a busy, polluted road. The main playground is just a tired square of grass and 2 concrete areas. They do have very good sports facilities (off-site, but used a lot)

I find it really hard to see past DD's current stage and evaluate how much of a problem this is long-term.

DD is very physical and active. Our park sessions (which are most days) generally involve several hours of climbing, swinging, and balancing and I simply can't imagine her constrained in a small, concrete playground!

But am I focusing to much on how she is now? Will that energy be transferred to more formal sports by the time she's year 2?

redcaryellowcar Tue 11-Oct-16 21:32:59

I think outdoor space is really important but great teaching even more so!

DonkeyOaty Tue 11-Oct-16 21:34:33

Does reception have a dedicated garden that's non-obvious from the kerbside?

KohINoorPencil Tue 11-Oct-16 21:39:40

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

strawberrybubblegum Tue 11-Oct-16 22:21:17

Donkey - it does have a little 'outdoor learning' area outside the reception classrooms, which was nice. No playgrounds other than those we've seen for breaks and lunchtimes though.

KohlNoor - what do you mean by climbing being restricted? Her current nursery have told her not to climb the trees, but I haven't heard of restrictions on using play equipment - are there some I should expect?

I know it does seem really precious to be worrying about the playground! I think it's because DD really is such an active child (genuinely more than most) and regular activity is currently quite important to keep her happy and in good spirits. We won't be able to go to the park that much since she'll go to after-school club at least part of the week, but I do take the point that we can still make sure we do lots at weekends.

The teaching is definitely our highest priority - but other schools also have good teaching (although this one is our favourite) and also other things to commend them.

I think I was hoping you would all say 'By the time they're 7, they just want to sit on benches together and chat' or 'pe and games are much more important than lunchtimes' so that we could just choose this school without any regrets! But I'd rather hear your honest opinions smile

Bluepowder Tue 11-Oct-16 22:30:53

No, they all run around a lot at all break times. Outdoor space is important, but not as much as teaching quality. Children are pretty adaptable in using whatever space is available to them. I always find it astonishing that they are very good at avoiding running into each other even in a fairly restricted area.

DonkeyOaty Tue 11-Oct-16 22:31:44

I think it'll be fine - you'll be able to do loads of weekend stuff.

WhoKnowsWhereTheTimeG0es Tue 11-Oct-16 22:40:45

My youngest is in Y6 and still runs and climbs, they sit and chat too but plenty of active play (I sometimes walk along the path by her school at lunchtimes and see them). They have a lot of outdoor space and several sets of play equipment but the use of that is restricted to one year group per break as a free for all would be dangerous, especially for the younger ones. After school club are allowed to use it and the playing fields every night weather permitting because there are relatively few of them, you could ask about that.

I wouldn't rule out an otherwise good school because of lack of open space but it is a bonus. However I do think children are very adaptable to whatever space there is.

grassroots Wed 12-Oct-16 10:38:56

Going against the grain here. For us, outdoor play is a massive part of childhood. I wouldn't contemplate a primary school with the facilities you have described - no matter how great the teaching. I really wouldn't want my child spending eight hours a day, five days a week, in that space. Personally I believe strongly that environment is hugely influential on mood, behaviour etc etc - all of which influence learning. Kids deserve the chance to have as much fun as possible - and one 'tired square of grass' really doesn't sound that much fun. I think they need space to run around, climb, hide, spin, slide - and they need a space they can enjoy the sunshine and fresh air.

Ginmummy1 Wed 12-Oct-16 10:58:41

DD's primary is on a small site. Two smallish concrete playgrounds, with a small grassy area.

While we would love the school to have amazing outdoor facilities, the school do do the best they can with the space available. They have a forest school area (small triangle of rough grass with a couple of trees), mud kitchen, running track and netball/basketball setup in the playgrounds, hopscotch, climbing frames, climbing wall against one wall of the school, allotment, friendship shelters etc.

There is plenty of time outside school to go to parks, pursue sporting activities etc. For me, outdoor space at school is definitely less important than a positive and enriching learning environment.

InTheseFlipFlops Wed 12-Oct-16 11:50:30

Outdoor space for me is hugely important.
Is the space dominated by football? Leaving just the edges for the non players? Or are they encouraged to do other things?
Ours have loads of toys, scooters outside stuff as well as climbing stuff, nature trails, bug hunting equipment.
It means all of them get to enjoy the outside not just the footballers.
Do you have many other options? You can carry on your park trips etc which will mean she doesn't miss out, but it's not the same as having your friends there to play at break.

Backingvocals Wed 12-Oct-16 12:02:15

Our school has no outside space. It's in a very urban setting and instead of playground it has a series of semi-open playdecks (like partially covered terraces) on each floor. There's no sunshine to enjoy as they are mostly covered.

It's definitely a downside to the school but it's manageable. DS is still running around a huge amount although they can't really do athletics or run a football game at school - at least not on a decent sized pitch. DD is older so is sitting chatting most of the time anyway. I supplement with out of school activities.

So I wouldn't be worried about the lack of space per se but I would be worried about the fact that it looks tired and unloved. That might signify that the school don't really care much about it and they'll get their act together for sporting set-pieces using the off-site space but have neglected the incidental running around the children do at playtime.

JasperDamerel Wed 12-Oct-16 12:15:53

when DD started reception, there was a concrete yard and a grassy field. Five years on and the space is the same, but with parent volunteers and PTA funding there is now a vegetable garden, a flower garden, a forest schools area, a large piece of play equipment with a slide, climbing frame and obstacle course, and markings on the concrete for both imaginative play (desert island) and active play (hopscotch etc).

There's also a box of skipping ropes, hula hoops etc.

My DC mostly play umpteen varieties of tag, or complicated games in which they run around lots and save the universe, neither of which need anything apart from space.

Otterspotter Wed 12-Oct-16 12:22:42

Are you in London? How much better are the other options?

sirfredfredgeorge Wed 12-Oct-16 12:32:43

Our After School Club often takes their after school charges to the local park playground - a short walk as we see them there. And that's in a school with a reasonably large outdoor play area. So I would ask the after school people if that's a possibility.

I would agree that lack of outdoor space would be a big negative on a school.

PetraStrorm Wed 12-Oct-16 13:00:56

For me, outdoor space is very important. DS went to a primary with no green space at all, just concrete playgrounds with some play equipment round the edges.

When DD was 2 (DS was at secondary by then) I was moving house and specifically looked for a house closer to a different primary that was the same standard of teaching but has a big playground and a huge field beyond it that the kids can go on at lunchtime.

I think green space is so important for growing kids. Given the choice (I know not everyone has it) I'd go for green space every time.

Leopard12 Wed 12-Oct-16 13:19:24

My primary was in a lovely village location but was fully concrete didn't have anything expect a snake and a rocket drawn on the floor in white paint and a football court with massive fencing, it didn't look great but kids always find ways to entertain themselves, we had skipping ropes and would play horses using then as reins, actually skip, have races and generally walk round and chat, probably better for social skills and we never knew any different, climbing was for the park and at home not for school.

Believeitornot Wed 12-Oct-16 19:36:52

We deliberately chose a school with loads of outside space... I think it's important especially as they get older with after school clubs being onsite.

BackforGood Wed 12-Oct-16 19:58:03

I wouldn't make any school decisions on it. After Reception, the time they get to play out is limited anyway - you say they have sports facilities which are well used.
By the time she starts school, she can start swimming lessons - great for using up energy - plus of course, you can still take her to the park after school every day if you don't think she is moving enough. You can also get a trampoline in your garden (if you have one).

It would influence my choice of Nursery, but not school.

KohINoorPencil Wed 12-Oct-16 20:59:07

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Artandco Wed 12-Oct-16 21:09:56

OUr school has no outdoor space. City location. I'm fine with it. They go out every day to other spaces i.e. Use local park for football lesson, local sports centre for games, swimming pool for swimming, a gym and dance lessons elsewhere.

They have plenty of opportunity afte rachool and weekends and holidays to go outside. We walk to and from school

Lilianne Thu 13-Oct-16 05:17:27

We chose ds school at least partly because of outdoor space. Fruit and veg garden, forest school, football grounds, good play frames etc. There are huge problems with childhood obesity and kids getting less and less physically able which will probably have big implications for later health, so a quality outdoors environment and a school that encourages outdoor learning was really important to us.

girlwithamoonandstaronherhead Thu 13-Oct-16 05:23:34

I can understand ur hesitation but I think the schools attitude to outdoor time and physical activity is ultimately more important and has more impact than the actual space they have iyswim

TellMeStraight Thu 13-Oct-16 11:02:56

I think outside space is hugely vital.

My DD had an awful time at her first primary school. And one of the things she found difficult is not having anything to do at playtime.

They weren't allowed on the grass when it was wet (most of the time!) so all they had was a big bit of concrete. There was the odd game of football being played and maybe some hopscotch but mostly the kids all stood around chatting and eating their snacks. It was really depressing.

When we looked for a new school the outside space was high on our list of priorities.

She now goes to a school where rolling around on wet grass is encouraged! They have swings, climbing frame, mud kitchen, fairy garden, sand pit, and a shed full of toys.

It's so valuable for the children to run wild both physically and mentally inbetween lessons. IMHO

Artandco Thu 13-Oct-16 12:25:31

Yes it's the school thought not space. Like I said ours have no space outdoors at actual school, but go outside 1-2 hrs every day doing stuff elsewhere. Ds2 spent 3 hrs on Monday in forest school, both had swimming (indoors but sport) and gym outdoors Tuesday, etc

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