St John the Baptist Church of England School

At St John the Baptist Church of England School in Hoxton, play is a fundamental part of the school’s curriculum. The head teacher believes that introducing innovative play ideas in their school has improved the quality of children’s education and their enjoyment of school.

The school, in the London Borough of Hackney, set out a long-term programme to tackle poor grades and problem behaviour through developing innovative play spaces designed for, and with, the children.

Adventure playground structures, with cargo nets, aerial walkways, zip wire, sand pit and a large stage area, have been built in the playground.

Classrooms extend into the playground, sheltered by a glass roof canopy. There are flower gardens, and children grow their own organic vegetables which are used by kitchen staff for school dinners. Teachers are free to use the play facilities at the school to help them to teach aspects of the curriculum.

The school is located in a diversely populated and socially deprived area. Since developing the play facilities, the school has seen drastic changes in terms of attendance records, academic grades and even improvements in the children’s behaviour. Ofsted inspections have also documented significant improvements in the overall running of the school.

Children were involved in the design of the play facilities and consulted about what they wanted out of the adventure playground. Children created models of ideas for the structures and voted on what would be included. This is reflected in the challenging play structures and green spaces now in the playground.

Along with neighbouring schools, St John the Baptist offers an extended school service, including a breakfast club and has offered a holiday scheme for people in the local community to use the facilities.

Funding for the play features came from additional grants from charitable funders, rather than from core school funding. Playworkers regularly visit the school to improve children’s play experiences, and teachers and parents are being trained as NVQ level playworkers to help supervise the extended school services. The school has employed a full-time play manager who will further extend the services and work with the school to develop the relationship between play and learning.

Starting autumn 2009, school staff will start a Masters in Play, which will be funded by the school. The school is working with a number of professionals to achieve this and hopes that this will help to highlight the role of play in education and communities.

Outside school hours, the playground is open over the Easter and summer holidays. From September 2009 the grounds will also be open during weekends and half-term.

For further information contact Louise Rosen (Head Teacher)
admin@st-john.hackney.sch.uk
or visit
www.st-john.hackney.sch.uk/learning.html

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