Fairfields Community Special School – Northampton
Turning a much loved outdoor space into an accessible space for all children
Fairfields Schoool wanted to completely overhaul their Early Years playground for children with severe or profound learning difficulties, communication and physical difficulties. It also caters for children on the autistic spectrum and children who may have multi-sensory impairment and complex medical difficulties.
• Offer manageable risk in a safe environment
• Facilitates wheelchairs and disability hoists
• Staff involvement and engagement
One thing is for sure, if something is worth doing, it’s worth doing well. This was the mantra used by Fairfield’s Primary School, Northampton prior to setting on this journey to create their wondrous new playspace for their Early Years children. They initially met with Playgarden to discuss the Specialist Landscape Architect Service and how working with the architect would ensure that the needs of their unique children would be met. As they were required to get other quotations, they met with other play companies and received their FREE designs, however these demonstrated a poor understanding of the complex needs, play, learning and developmental requirements of the children at Fairfields Primary, Northampton.
Some 12 months on from their initial meeting, Fairfields new that it was time to call Playgarden again and work with their Landscape Architect to design a vision for their outdoor space. As part of this consultation, the Playgarden team met with the staff but also spent some time engaging with the children, observing them and talking through their specific needs. This consultation and knowledge gathering was imperative to the creation of a successful design.
The new outdoor play area at Fairfields Primary provides lots of opportunities for children of all abilities to move and be boisterous within the space. The space is fully wheelchair accessible with careful thought being given to the surface and textures to ensure they are suitable but also fun because the school wanted their children to experience the delight of different sensations underfoot. Features include; tactile pathway, artificial grass, a space for trikes.
The design of the sand pit was crucial to ensure that all the children could access freely the sand and water play. A large level entrance was created with enough space for the hoists and also the wheelchairs, so that that the children could get their whole body into the sand pit. The inclusion of a low level Mushroom Pump, with a large, child-sized button to press, means the children can easily control and manipulate the flow of water.
A large wooden archway entrance is the gateway to the mud play area, surrounded by hedging to provide a sense of enclosure. Due consideration was given to access for all children, including wheelchairs. This resulted in design modifications to the mud kitchen unit, so that the wheelchairs could sit up to the counter top. The entrance to the mud digging bed was lowered, again to provide ease of access.
The design features accessible cosy pods that can be used for one on one time, or with several children. One of these sensory pods features coloured Perspex circles that reflect light onto the walls and floor which really appeals to the children.
• A useable space for all children with disabilities and impairments
• Multi surfaces and textures, allowing the children to be outside, no matter what the weather
• Accessible play features taking into consideration wheelchairs and hoists
• Introduction of risk in a safe environment
• Access to natural materials such as sand, water and mud
What the client said…
“My instinct after my initial meeting with Playgarden was that they were the right company for Fairfields Primary. Our children are so special and every one of them is important to us that we wanted to work with a company that understood their uniqueness. Playgarden were the only company that wanted to meet our children and really get to know about their particular needs. From our initial meeting to the installation team working onsite, this passion was evident throughout. We were able to modify small elements of the design whilst the team were working on site, such as the position and style of features which was one of the great advantages of working with Playgarden as they create everything on site, rather than arriving with a product from a catalogue with a set size, that cannot be altered. Of course we were initially concerned about paying for a design but I can see that with all the attention to detail, specialist knowledge and bespoke features that this is something that represented very good value. After all, if something is worth doing, it’s worth getting the best that you can, that fits exactly what you need.”