New outdoor learning and wellbeing gardens have officially opened at two primary schools in the North East. The gardens will provide extra outdoor spaces for pupils at St Leonard’s Catholic Primary School in Sunderland and St Matthew’s Catholic Primary School in Jarrow, which are both part of Bishop Chadwick Catholic Education Trust.
The outdoor learning environment at St Leonard’s will provide purposeful areas for reception pupils to learn about the world around them while the new space at St Matthew’s will provide a calm place for pupils to be creative and to support their wellbeing.
The Early Years Foundation Stage outdoor space at St Leonard’s, which meets the statutory needs of the EYFS curriculum, has areas dedicated to developing the skills and interests of pupils.
There is a mud kitchen which will provide opportunities for children to write recipes, make mud pies, weigh “ingredients” and work together with their friends. The construction area and fairy land promote small world play that will engage children in using their imagination and storytelling. The new road surface and balance bikes will support pupils’ gross motor skills, and ability to negotiate space and obstacles, with consideration for themselves and others, while the water and sand play areas promote fine motor skill development and opportunities to explore the natural world. The den-making encourages roleplay and problem-solving while the climbing frame develops their confidence in facing challenges. All areas develop a level of imagination, turn-taking and language development.
Dionne Dunn, headteacher of St Leonard’s Catholic Primary School, said: “We are delighted with all the new learning opportunities created within our new outdoor environment. Hearing the excitement, gasps and ‘wows’ from the children and sharing in their enjoyment was simply wonderful. The children were extremely motivated, engaged and excited about the new learning opportunities that the outdoors presented. Our reception teacher, Miss Ellis Brickle, has encapsulated the school’s vision for EYFS and we are very excited to see the fantastic outcomes this will bring our children and new cohort joining us in September.”
EYFS pupil Thomas, five, said: “I love being outdoors and want to stay here all the time.”
Classmate Emma, five, said: “I read a story with my friend about a colourful elephant.”
Five-year-old Harper, who played on the roadway, said she really enjoyed her first experience of the outdoor learning area and added: “We learn about health and safety and had to wear a helmet.”
At St Matthew’s, the school’s art subject leader, Julie Limer, was successful in receiving a grant of £4,250 from the South Tyneside Creative Enquiry Project to create a Wellbeing Garden. Artist Amy Grounsel planned and designed the outdoors space using a range of reclaimed and upcycled materials and worked with Mrs Limer, children, staff – including the school caretaker, Jason Thompson – and volunteers to create a magical garden.
Groups of children from all year groups took part and learned many new skills such as painting, gardening and woodwork, boosting their self-esteem and providing an opportunity for them to be creative. The space will be used to carry out outdoor learning around a variety of subjects such as art, science and PSHE (personal, social, health and economic education).
Eve Alderson, headteacher of St Matthew’s Catholic Primary School, said: “’This project has been a wonderful opportunity for our school community to work together to create a fantastic Wellbeing Garden, which will be enjoyed for years to come. Staff, parents and children worked alongside the artist to ensure that a creative and engaging space could really come to life. The skills that the children learnt throughout the project were invaluable, from using a wide range of tools to painting and gardening. It was fantastic to see children grow in confidence throughout the project and create something they could feel incredibly proud of. We were also able to draw on a wide range of skills from our parents, who really went above and beyond to help support this project. We were also delighted to be able to upcycle a lot of materials donated from local businesses that would have gone to waste. Thank you to all those involved and to South Tyneside Creative Enquiry Project for allowing this dream to become a reality.”
Brendan Tapping, CEO of BCCET, said: “I was delighted to be asked to officially open both St. Leonard’s Early Years Foundation Stage outdoor provision and the new Wellbeing Garden at St. Matthew’s. We are fortunate at Bishop Chadwick to have fantastic schools within our Trust who provide great resources for our pupils and, more importantly, wonderful staff who are dedicated to giving our pupils the best to allow them to become the best versions of themselves.”
For more information on available school places in September at St Matthew’s Catholic Primary School and St Leonard’s Catholic Primary School, please visit https://www.stmatthewsrc.org and https://www.stleonardsprimary.org.uk.
For more information about BCCET, please visit www.bccet.org.uk.