The playground of a small primary school in the west end of Newcastle upon Tyne has recently won national recognition as the ‘Best External Learning Environment' at the British Council for School Environment's Industry Awards 2009.
The awards, hosted by internationally renowned designer Wayne Hemingway MBE at the Emirates Stadium, were held as part of National School Environments Week which generated more than 170 entries across 13 categories.
Moorside Primary School which Arthurs Hill, a part of the city that continues to benefit from massive investment in regeneration activities, has provision for up to 600 children aged 4-11 years.
The school worked with designers and architects Colour: Urban Design Limited (UDL), who collaborated with pupils across the age range to incorporate the children's ideas and favourite activities into their scheme.
Ty Goddard, chief executive of BCSE said: "Moorside Community Primary School is a deserving winner of our ‘Best External Learning Environment Award'. Outside spaces are crucial when it comes to helping children develop a range of skills. At Moorside we were particularly impressed with the range of exciting elements which help fire up children's imagination and help them learn as well as play."
Peter Owens, project design director and managing director of Colour: UDL, said: "This is a fantastic accolade both for us as designers and as acknowledgment of the aspirations of June Foster the head teacher. Children love playing and learning outdoors, exploring and challenging themselves both physically and mentally. Unfortunately many don't always have the freedom or opportunities to do this in today's world.
"With the kind of ‘play' that our spaces instigate, children are empowered to make decisions - we don't dictate. This helps children learn, testing out skills they have learnt, playing out situations they have observed and making new discoveries within safe boundaries."
Each project was assessed around the themes of integrity, impact and value for money. The judging panel chose Moorside because it made maximum use of the playground's existing features and transformed these in terms of appearance, function and educational value to create a cutting edge playground of huge significance to the social, physical and creative development of children attending the school, whilst providing excellent value for money.
June Foster, head teacher of Moorside School, has recently been awarded ‘Primary School Head Teacher of the Year' by the National College for School Leadership.
"The children seem calmer now that they have a more interactive playground. They like to relax on the mound when the sun is out and explore in the woodland area. There is a space for all the children and for whatever mood they are in. It has been a wonderful transformation," said Foster.
The design, which has made use of the existing shelter and seating, also contains flexible activity areas with a timber stage for storytelling, performance and play; wild areas for unstructured exploration featuring a water pump with basin which the children can operate so that when water is released from the basin it flows the length of the playground; and softer landscape which can be explored between the newly planted trees and retained trees, to provide a green and calming canopy.
The children have really become involved in their surroundings, using the soil and grass areas to grow vegetables and plants, and creating trails through the woodland areas.