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Sensory project at Trinity SEN school, London

Client: Trinity School

Cost: £106,000

Date: Completed November 2009

Genre: Landscape, Inclusive

Sensory Garden Project at SEN School


Trinity School is the only special school in Barking & Dagenham serving the special educational needs (SEN) of over 220 pupils aged 9-13 with diverse learning difficulties. The school wanted to update their sensory garden area into a fully inclusive and natural play setting.


The school’s Local Authority, Barking & Dagenham, recommended using the expertise of playground equipment experts Sutcliffe Play, renowned for creating truly inclusive, natural play areas. The design by Sutcliffe Play more than matched their ‘once in a lifetime’ vision.

Design and Build

Existing features,(sunken courtyard, planting and a small lawned area) were enhanced by creating playful links from one area to another. The sunken area was transformed into an interactive sand pit with water play, decking access and shades. The flow of water was used to connect the two quadrangles together, encouraging children to play between each one. The flat lawn was re-shaped using mounds and tunnels, bridges and arches. Sensory elements including distorting mirrors and music chimes, were set within smaller spaces. An amphitheatre, nestled into an arc shaped mound, facilitates larger groups of children and provides a tiered seating area with flexible parasols for the summer months. There is also a small stage area where pupils and teachers can embrace learning outside the classroom.



Playground Equipment:

Sand and water play equipment feature highly in the scheme. Convex and concave mirrors allow the children to explore different reflections, and talk tubes & chimes introduce pupils to the element of wind.

The use of the garden is very much concentrated around specialist teaching and learning, with the school having an alternative area where the children play at break times.

Stage and Seating Area with Canopy, allowing children to enjoy lessons outdoors

Robinia Arch: made of natural Robinia boughs leaning together, this arch complements the outdoor environment and can be run through or used as a ‘den’, inspiring imaginative play.

3m Long Tunnel: an exciting cylindrical tunnel ideal for crawling through, encouraging active play.

K&K Play Yard: this colourful play equipment features pulleys and a sheltered roofed area with seating.

K&K Mirror Convex and Mirror Concave: these stainless steel mirrors create curious reflections for children to explore.

Special Water play Unit: this extensive piece of water play equipment unit has multiple streams and allows children to experiment with flows and pools of water, enabling sensory play.

K&K Music Panel: encouraging sensory play, these wind chimes allow children to explore different sounds.

3.5m Octagonal Parasol to provide shade or rain shelter

K&K Sand Table with Sieve: this sturdy piece of play equipment is ideal for making sandcastles on and includes an unusual sieve, encouraging children to be creative with sand and explore its texture and consistency.

K&K Talk tubes & 20m tube: these quirky tubes inspire great curiosity in children and introduce them to a variety of different sounds.

K&K Arch Bridge: an aesthetically pleasing bridge which provides a fun entrance into the playground equipment area.

K&K Special Sand Play Unit: has wheelchair ramp access and a six sided water table that enables groups of children to play together. It leads onto a sand play factory that has lifts, scoops and sand pipes, with shuffle decks for easy accesses and transfer.

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