Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Time to Take Stock

Playground improvement is an ongoing process that has progressed with the participation of all stakeholders over two years, and this week we are taking stock of our achievements, at a point where we can choose to transform our playground. 

We heard concern that redeveloping the playground this summer seems too rushed and we need more processing time. Ahead of our Playground Consultation Evening on Thursday 19th March, it seems an appropriate time to reflect on our journey up to now and to look forward.

Developing an Action Plan: 
Sciennes School Council aims to represent the views of all parents. This can be a challenge as Sciennes Primary is a large school and parents and carers have different views on a range of matters.The Communications subgroup has achieved noteworthy success in inviting, sharing and responding to views throughout our school community . In March 2013 the School Council gave the go-ahead to the Communications subgroup to carry out a parent survey, the results of which would inform a School Council Action Plan designed to support improvements at school for the next two years. 
All Sciennes parents and carers were asked how Sciennes Primary could be improved. 212 responses were received with over 600 suggestions. The Parent Council’s partnership with school in facilitating the survey was highlighted as excellent practice by City of Edinburgh. 
The survey identified the playgroundas a key priority amongst parents and pupils for improvement.  Around the same time, Headteacher Alison Noble was inspired by the “Grounds for Learning” programme; an approach that has underpinned proposed developments. 

In April 2013 the Playground Improvement Group (Chair: Alison Noble) was formed by open invitation to engage, plan and make decisions.  

AND IN 2014?
In June 2014 we learned that the procedure for closing a road is protracted and there could be no certainty as to the outcome.

In September 2014 a 3 Phase Plan was proposed and accepted:
Phase 1 academic year 2014/15  
Low cost/ high impact interventions such as living play spaces and ‘Loose Parts Play’ which will be rolled out after Easter
Phase 2  by end of 2015  
Comprehensive reconfiguration and refurbishment of the existing south playground
Phase 3 notionally 2017
Closure of Sciennes Road 

In November a Playground Information meeting was held and all stakeholders were invited.

In December 2014 all members of our community - pupils, staff and parents - were surveyed on the outline playground design, Phase 2

Listening continues.

If our application for the final round of SportScotland Legacy 2014 Active Places match funding is successful, we would like the project to be completed by the end of the next financial year. 

To be able to build in summer 2015, during a rare seven week holiday, we need to refine the outline design and proceed to the preparation of detailed design drawings in April.

We need to decide where we go now.  
This is an important week for us as a school community. 
We have striven to avoid rash decision making, and to remain steady in our focus on our aspirations.  The Senior Leadership Team and Playground Improvement Group have given these proposals and feedback prolonged thought and discussion.  Throughout this week we have attempted to share our rationale and vision so that we can enter into final consultation in an informed, positive manner, for the benefit of all our children.  
We hope that you are able to attend the Playground Consultation Evening on Thursday 19th 6pm-7pm and if you are unable to attend in person, please feel welcome to email your views to by Friday 20th March.  


Sciennes Playground Heights and Supervision/Safety

The Senior Leadership team at Sciennes has a strong, established culture of moving forwards by consensus. Our conversation about playground development continues.

We heard concern about different heights, particularly the wooden platform and jumping wall

We learned:
•`orientation' (above, below) and `trajectory' (jumping off, throwing balls) are important forms of play and development
• children need to encounter challenges, assess risk and progressively learn to master them
• adults can sometimes be over protective but we will not provide opportunity to climb too high (You will need to take them elsewhere for that!)
• our children are hungry for exploring height- watch them in the quiet area, or climbing poles or springing over picnic tables
• the platform design will not, and cannot, enable impalement on railings
• different depths are good for training eye muscles more used to flat ground and flat screens

We heard concern about safety and supervision

We learned:
• about play policies. Every child has the right to play and the right to be safe.
• to use class time to embed rules, expectations and practise physical skills e.g. jumping.
• Grounds for Learning can support development of a pupil led playground charter
• there should be fewer major injuries, including head injuries, but perhaps more grazes and bumps
• children will be out of sight at times, but escape is part of healthy, risky play
our excellent Playground Supervisors have received (and will continue to receive) additional training. They will be walking around the playground and can always be called upon. A member of the Senior Leadership Team will continue to be on duty in the playground at all breaks each day, a practice that we have established for several years now.
children will be mentored by teaching staff and Playground Supervisors in how to solve and resolve any 'squabbles', for example, being able to move on to different spaces and activities.

We hope that you are able to attend the Parent Consultation Evening on Thursday 19th 6pm-7pm and if you are unable to attend in person, please feel welcome to email your views to by Friday 20th March.

Link: Can a playground be too safe?

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Sciennes Playground: cost, value for money, maintenance

The Senior Leadership Team believe that one of our greatest assets at Sciennes Primary is our sense of community, and we must protect and nurture it at all cost.  Your collaboration over the past two years and in our current endeavours is greatly appreciated.
We heard concern about the cost of the project and whether it represents value for money.

We wish to emphasise
•    the current design is aligned with the school's aspiration to transform some of our stretch of asphalt to a friendly, natural world space that enriches learning and play across all ages and groups.  Different aspirations may have cost less.
•    we are getting a lot for our money: a wonderful landscape for learning, introducing loose parts play, and creating an extension to the playground in the Sciennes Road linear park
•    previous generous contributions to the playground, such as the traversing wall, will be incorporated sensitively in the final design. The amphitheatre is already a significant feature. Picnic tables and benches will still feature.
•    value added. If our SportScotland application is successful, we get to spend £2 for every £1 we raise
•    we view this money as being spent on learning, teaching, health and well-being: it is not just a playground
•    to address concern the project could be self-indulgent, perhaps we want to increase our charitable efforts. However, it should be noted that our community already generously supports many charitable organisations and events throughout the year, most recently donating almost £1000 to Comic Relief.

We heard concerns about durability and maintenance costs.

We learned
•    from investing time meeting various Edinburgh City Council departments, how they can support us and how we can work with them
•    the Council Building & Programme Team is putting in place an annual inspection process for all playground equipment/facilities for a nominal fee
•    costs for repairs or remedial works, and replacement of materials for Loose Parts Play, will be met by the School and Parent Council may be asked to contribute.

   annual maintenance costs may be up to £1500.
•    responsibility for inspection and care of trees will remain with the City Council
•    the costings have a built in safety net for unforeseen expenses and are for high quality, durable materials with warranties.

You asked, "What is Plan B if we do not secure the SportScotland funding?"

•    We will receive a decision about the matched funding bid in the next few weeks.
•    If there is a funding shortfall, our priority will be our own playground area
•    By September 2015, some elements will have been implemented in our playground.
We appreciate your fundraising efforts to date and we still have time to increase funds further.

We hope that you are able to attend the Playground Consultation Evening on Thursday 19th 6pm-7pm and if you are unable to attend in person, please feel welcome to email your views to by Friday 20th March.

Breakdown of cost plan
67%  Playground landscaping
17%  Sciennes Road linear park
2%     Store
9%     Preliminaries
4%     Contingencies


Monday, 16 March 2015

Sciennes Playground: Space and Sport

We have listened to and thoroughly explored your responses to the Playground Survey.  Yesterday we responded to your feedback regarding sand and grass.  We are still listening.
We heard your preference for maximising space, and that there are concerns about losing free space for play, running and other activities.

We learned:
•    Efforts to acquire Sciennes Road for use as a playground and a public pedestrian/cycle path continue; a priority for 2017 when Sick Kid’s relocates
•    Lunchtime access to the ‘nature strip’, the platform and the tunnel will increase space.  Meadows access will continue for P7’s.
•   The plans create an open, interesting landscape for hugely diverse, active and quiet play, instead of obstructive fixed play equipment 
•    Opportunities to run are still desirable, and will become more exciting, challenging and safer
•    The east shed (listed building) and Quiet Corner spaces do need some further thought
•    For parents, it will also be a change: different but no less welcoming and amenable for collective functions
•    Cycle training and skills sessions will continue
•    Education Scotland encourages us to develop outdoor learning within our grounds (see link)

We heard your enthusiasm for a sports court and formal team sports
We learned:
•    Repainting the sports court is important, but more courts would greatly limit other needs
•    We need to raise awareness of the huge amount of sport that takes place at school (see link). 

We hope that you are able to attend the Parent Consultation Evening on Thursday 19th 6pm-7pm and if you are unable to attend in person, please feel welcome to email your views to by Friday 20th March.

Sciennes Primary Senior Leadership Team

Sunday, 15 March 2015

Playground surface materials (sand, gravel,grass)

Gravitating to greenery
Following the playground surveys there has been much consultation, observation and discussion, and now we are ready to respond and continue to listen.

We heard concerns about the hygiene and mess associated with sand
We learned:
•       several other Edinburgh schools are extremely pleased with the benefits from introducing sand
•       how to maintain hygiene
•       drainage in winter was not a problem
•       to provide mats and brushes at the  school doors, part of children’s learning
•       sand and gravel are a key to successful sustained interest in loose materials play
•       sand is <2% of the whole playground

We heard concerns that grass areas would not survive and become a mud-bath
We learned:
•       grass on steep gradients often creates mud-slides; artificial grass may be more appropriate
•       grass on flatter areas, even with rubber matting will not thrive, but with good drainage still represents useful contact with the natural world.  Final decision not made.

Natural loose materials were selected to give our children daily contact with the natural world, together with their friends; promote healthy development; and make running more physically challenging (maybe slower).  No area of the playground will be out of bounds after wet weather.  Daily lunchtime access to the ‘nature strip’ will be available.

If you would like more information on the benefits of sand then check out this short Grounds for Learning video

We hope that you are able to attend the Parent Consultation Evening on Thursday 19th 6pm-7pm.

Saturday, 14 March 2015

Playground Consultation Evening 19th March 6-7pm

Thursday 19th March 6pm-7pm

Parents/Carers are invited to look at the advancements that have been made with playground development and to speak with staff.

You will be able to see:
• Recent Loose Parts experiences
• Playground redesign with more detail and explanations
• Letters from external play experts and parties
• The design marked out in the playground

You will be able to talk with members of staff and the Playground Improvement Group about any aspect of the design. We really want to hear from you directly.

Time is tight and we would like to finish the consultation by the end of March in order to successfully conclude the project this summer.

Senior Leadership Team

Learning Through Landscapes

Dear Parent/Carer

We hope you will enjoy this short video which demonstrates the philosophy, rationale and vision for our children at Sciennes.

Kind Regards

Alison Noble

Wednesday, 11 March 2015


Update from Kirsten Unger, Playground Group:
What is 'Loose Parts Play'? More open-ended play in the school. Loose parts are materials that can be moved, carried, combined, redesigned, lined up, and taken apart and put back together in multiple ways. They help inspire imagination, problem solving and creativity in play, on children’s own terms and in their own unique way. 

On Friday 6th March we were fortunate to have Steve Moizer, from Grounds for Learning to train the Pupil Support Assistants and meet with the School’s Senior Management Team to give us the best possible start to loose parts play. From March 9th-12th Louise Caldwell,  Play Development Officer, Edinburgh is in school to work with individual teachers and classes using loose parts. 

Parents were able to hear more from Steve Moizer on Friday 6th March and if you want to be actively involved in supporting the ‘Loose parts’ initiative please get in touch. 

Bamboo? Biophilia: Plants make us feel good. We have created some living play spaces, bringing some sensory richness and fun. It has been achieved through generous donations from Jewsons, Homebase, The Range, Morrisons, friends of pupils, skip scavenging, the Council and help from the school budget. If you have ideas or want to donate large pots/soil/plants, please let us know. 

Joyful scenes in the playground this week during 'Loose Parts' Outdoor Learning with Louise Caldwell, City of Edinburgh Play Development Officer, and Kerry from Playbox, giving our children the opportunity to express themselves through self-directed play. We have also benefited greatly from the advice and support of Steven Moizer from Grounds for Learning. Ms Christie timetabled sessions for buddy classes and more photographs can be found on the Class Pages. Thank you to parents who have come along to see the sessions. There is still time to catch us at play tomorrow! Wonderful to see the children co-operating so well to construct together with imaginations soaring! 

Friday, 6 March 2015

Pupil Support Assistant Playground Improvement Session

We are very grateful to Stephen Mozier  from Grounds for Learning for his inspirational session on how to adapt our playground to become a more inspiring, creative, playful and social space. We are looking forward to working with Louise Caldwell, Play Development Officer and to putting many of the ideas into practice. If you would like to find out more about loose materials and how they stimulate children's creativity, encourage team work and collaboration come along to one of next week's sessions.
Loose Materials Session Timetable w/b 9th March 2015