Bedwas Infant School, Caerphilly, has developed their playground so that pupils have the opportunity to learn through play. Teaching assistants facilitate different play areas and offer additional support to vulnerable groups. The schools standards of wellbeing are high and attendance has improved.
Number of pupils: 161
Age range: 3 - 7 years
Date of Estyn inspection: May 2014
Context and background to sector-leading practice
Bedwas Infant School caters for children aged 3- 7 and is in the former mining village of Bedwas near Caerphilly. There are 46 part time nursery and 115 full time children organised into 5 classes, 3 of which are mixed aged. 17% of children are eligible for free school meals, which is slightly below the average for Wales. 25% have additional educational needs.
The school is fully committed to its vision and want all children in its care to have “Happy faces, Kind Hearts and Inquiring Minds”.
We know that young children learn best through play and almost 28% of their time in school is break and lunch times. We wanted to maximise learning opportunities by developing the playground to support skills in all areas of learning.
Most of the children are well behaved and happy in school, but there are a few who need extra care and support. If they struggle at playtimes, this often affects their behaviour and learning during lessons.
Nature of strategy or activity identified as sector-leading practice
The playground has been developed into exciting learning zones which include one for reading and writing, construction, cycling, football, drama, storytelling and craze of the week. There is a strong team of highly committed and talented teaching assistants and each one takes responsibility for a designated area and encourages the children to play and learn together purposefully. They are helped by children in Year 2 who take turns to be “Playground Friends”.
Vulnerable pupils with emotional or social difficulties are identified and they are “buddied up” with a teaching assistant who monitors their welfare during play. They keep a careful watch to make sure they are happy and play nicely with other children. They also spend time chatting to the children about their concerns.
Some children, who find playtimes a little daunting and prefer quieter activities, are encouraged to sit at a table to read books or do some drawing and writing. They are supported by a teaching assistant who also encourages older children to read with the younger ones.
Some Y2 children, who need mentoring, are encouraged to join a play time gardening club and they take great pride in maintaining and developing the school grounds. Children with anger issues benefit from being part of a close knit team and improve their self-esteem and self-confidence.
Children with personal and social difficulties are supported through small group social and emotional aspects of learning (SEAL) sessions. They are taught to recognise emotions and learn how to control themselves. A“ Calming Tree”, painted on a wall, is used for children who need time to reflect on their behaviour and suggests strategies such as “ deep breath” “tense/relax” and “count- down”.
Impact on provision and learners’ standards
Standards of wellbeing in the school are very high. The children are very happy, confident and have good social skills. Attendance has risen steadily over the last 4 years.
Vulnerable children have support from a trusted adult throughout playtimes. The nervous ones have someone to talk to and can choose quieter activities. Children with anger issues have the opportunity to take part in either sports or more relaxing activities and they learn to manage their feelings well.
Nearly all children behave well showing respect and consideration for others. They play together harmoniously, taking turns and sharing without arguments. The number of incidents of poor behaviour has reduced significantly.
Older children who are chosen to be Playground Friends develop leadership skills and have improved decision making and inter-personal skills.
Children’s physical skills have improved and they play energetically and skilfully with a wide range of equipment. The number of accidents at playtime has fallen.
Responses to questionnaires show that 100% of the children like school. Ninety-four percent of the parents feel that children behave well and 98% feel that their child is encouraged to be healthy and take regular exercise.