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Inclusive outdoor learning and play area

Sutcliffe Play has worked with Glenwood School on the development of a £270,000 inclusive outdoor learning and play area.

The school has recently been rebuilt by Essex County Council on land adjacent to its previous site. The school reopened in September 2017 and as part of the new build project the school wanted to include an outdoor space that could be used for both learning and play.

Glenwood is a Community Special School for learners aged 3-19 with severe, profound or multiple learning difficulties. This includes learners with autistic spectrum condition and those with complex physical and sensory impairments. The school is committed to creating a happy and positive environment for pupils and staff, with the new playground forming an integral part of their strategy. It was important that the playground wasn’t just about the equipment; it needed to be an outdoor learning space that would engage pupils across four key areas:

  • Sensory Garden
  • Balance & Coordination Area
  • Outdoor Classroom
  • Inclusive Physical Development Area

Inclusivity is at the heart of all of Sutcliffe Play’s proposals and our design team has created an outdoor space for Glenwood School that creates endless opportunities for both learnings and play. The four areas have created clear zones for pupils to engage in different activities:

Sensory Garden

This area uses equipment and materials to create a natural playground. Pathways and tunnels are created with wooden equipment, bamboo and planters. We’ve also introduced pieces that create opportunities that will help to develop and engage sound and vision. A hammock and table and chairs provide settings to develop social skills.

Balance & Coordination Area

This area features equipment from Sutcliffe Play’s Orchard range. The wooden, environmentally friendly range complements the Sensory Garden with sleeper benches and activity trails to help develop balance. This area also includes an inclusive nest swing that is designed like a bird’s next to allow children of differing abilities to swing together.

Outdoor Classroom

A gazebo has been installed to create an outdoor learning environment with a chalkboard, benches and tables accessible for wheelchairs.

Inclusive Physical Development Area

This area is packed with some of Sutcliffe Play’s newest and most innovative equipment. This includes two multi-play units featuring a wide range of different play options, access points and levels of challenge:

  • The first, a large bespoke unit offers double wheel chair access ramps with turning and passing points whilst incorporating play elements along the route. Drag ramps, wide non-slip access steps and double width access cargo nets ensure that users of all abilities can access the 1.2 high large seating central play house and slide.
  • The second, the Daffodil Climber from the Toddlerzone Plus range features gentle waving panels to reflect a natural theme.

We’ve also installed our inclusive wheelchair roundabout that allows those in a wheelchair to experience spinning, just as if they were on a traditional roundabout.

Judith Salter, head teacher at Glenwood School says:  “Outdoor space forms a really important part of the learning opportunities and leisure time for the young people attending Glenwood. We aim to provide the best possible education for all learners to prepare them for everything they can achieve in life. The new playground will help us to achieve these goals and will have a long-lasting positive impact on the school.”


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