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Highfield School, Wakefield

Client: Highfield School in Wakefield

Cost: £26,750

Date: 01/11/2006

Genre: Inclusive

Sutcliffe Play Learns from Children


To stimulate the pupils’ senses and develop their individual gross and fine motor skills and have fun!

Design and Build

A flagship school in Yorkshire has helped Sutcliffe Play, a leading manufacturer and designer of playground equipment, to develop their range of inclusive play equipment.

Highfield School is Wakefield’s only Special Educational Needs specialist status school and caters for 140 pupils in the 11-19 age groups. It was granted Trust status in September 2008 and teaches children with moderate learning difficulties including autism, sensory impairments, social, emotional and behavioural difficulties.

Sutcliffe Play believes that every child should have equal access to good play opportunities which is why their innovative range, developed in conjunction with Highfield School, ensures that children with disabilities can play side-by-side with the able bodied.  Sutcliffe Play’s Design Director, Dave Brady became a governor of the school to better understand the school’s specialist SEN care.

A partnership and sponsorship arrangement between Sutcliffe Play and the school helped formulate the company’s policy on inclusive play and allowed the school to invest in two challenging but complementary play areas producing a wide range of positive results for both pupils and staff.

Headteacher Mr Spalding says the play areas have enabled pupils to play independently, under supervision, whilst developing important life skills: “Our senses are important, they tell us about our surrounding and they influence our reactions, in time they mould our personality.  They are what we are.

“We wished to stimulate our pupils’ senses and develop their individual gross and fine motor skills and have fun when we initially planned our playgrounds with Sutcliffe Play.  The swings and climbing frame offer a wealth of confidence boosting opportunities by stimulating balance and weight shifting – key elements in sensory integration.”

Playground Equipment:

When inclusivity is really working, you can’t see the joins.  Sutcliffe Play’s rotating dish is great for dynamic, fast play.  But its thoughtful design incorporates support to give security for less able children.

The school also use the playgrounds as a stimulating resource in a range of curriculum topics, including science and PSD.

Staff at the school noted a variety of other notable landmarks and learning outcomes achieved by pupils including positive interaction between pupils less confident with play skills, development of co-operation, sharing and taking turns, improved spatial awareness and eye to hand co-ordination skills, development of balance, weight shifting ability and core stability and improved confidence.

Dave Brady comments:  “I feel very privileged to be involved with such an excellent school and I have learned a great deal from listening to staff and pupils there.

“Our inclusive play equipment has been developed with their help, our whole philosophy is that less able children should be able to play alongside the able bodied without boundaries, and I thank Highfield School for helping us to achieve that.”

Highfield School Assistant Headteacher Ann Shepherd comments:  “We are very grateful to Sutcliffe Play for the expertise and knowledge and continued support. We have noticed significant improvements in pupils’ engagement with play using the equipment. They have developed a variety of new skills and had fun at the same time. The stimulation of senses is so important to them and this new playground is perfect for that.”

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