Many of the 200 children at Kingfisher Primary School, Smith’s Wood, North Solihull, live in high rise tower blocks where opportunities for outdoor play are limited.
This is not surprising given that Smith’s Wood is an area of very dense housing with the lowest level of green space anywhere in North Solihull. What’s more, many parents are reluctant to allow their youngsters to play on the few open spaces that are available to them.
A sweeping social and economic regeneration programme is underway in the area, involving £1.8 billion worth of public and private investment over the next 15 years.
The project involves building at least 10 state-of-the-art primary schools, including a new Kingfisher School, but the transformation of the area has led to restricted play opportunities for Kingfisher pupils, partly due to the massive school building project.
The new Kingfisher School, built on land adjoining the original Kingfisher School, opened at the end of March and is situated at the heart of what will be a thriving village centre. The school opens directly onto the village high street which will incorporate facilities for the local community, including a health centre and parish council offices.
Head teacher Sue Vyvyan says the Snug loose parts play range came into its own when children’s play areas at the old school were being ‘eaten away’ by building work, reducing the amount of playground and open space available to pupils. She also noted how the Snug range, which includes nine movable pieces, helped pupils at Kingfisher to ‘rediscover their innocence’.
“Snug has totally transformed playtime here, particularly for our key stage one pupils. Many of our children don’t know how to entertain themselves and playtime used to be based on what children saw on TV at home. As a consequence, it was quite aggressive, with boys and girls playing separately. “Snug has changed all that. It is helping children to develop their leadership, social and organisational skills through co-operation and teamwork and they are now expressing themselves much more freely. Whereas pupils can only do certain things with fixed play equipment, every time children play on Snug they’re experiencing something new.”
The ability to use Snug indoors or outdoors, or in the case of Kingfisher to move it easily from the old school to the new one, is another advantage compared to fixed equipment. Teachers at Kingfisher have also been quick to recognise Snug’s potential in the curriculum. “Snug provides new learning opportunities across many curriculum areas including maths, literacy, PE and design technology.
For example, older pupils carried out a project on shelters and built models using various pieces of Snug. Soon after younger children were using the same shelters for free play, highlighting its versatility and how it appeals to all age groups. We also watched another group of pupils using Snug to set up a trampoline system. This required a great deal of co-operation and teamwork which doesn’t always come naturally to children here.”