Redriff Primary School, London

Redriff Primary School – London

Redriff Primary School is located in Rotherhithe, South East London. The school caters for around 450 children in their purpose built single story, modern plan school. Graded outstanding in their most recent OFSTED, Redriff were keen to develop their Early Years outdoor provision.

Project Brief

Redriff Primary School aimed big, inspired by the fantastic Princess Diana playground in Kensington Gardens. Assistant Headteacher, Sarah Harrison identified Playgarden as the best company to create a play area with a similar approach, but on a smaller scale. Playgarden are the sister company of Timberplay, who provided the centrepiece pirate ship for the incredibly popular play area in Kensington Gardens.

Redriff wanted to create a natural play area which promoted adventure, risk taking and challenge. They wanted a play area that fostered an ‘I can do that’ attitude, and pushing children to develop independence and develop their physical skills – the school strongly believe that  this attitude is then carried through to more formal learning across the Foundation Stage curriculum and beyond. Having free and open-ended access to play also nurtures gross motor skills, in turn helping children develop their writing skills.

Redriff School have a very clearly defined set of school values which underpin the design and aspirations of this project. These pertain to facing challenges and developing independence, embracing change and taking risks, developing personal understanding and tolerance of others and being friendly, warm-hearted and compassionate. The play area needed to demonstrably dovetail these values.


The outdoor space incorporates the best elements of natural play with extensive sand and water play. The design intertwines these two, so that the water runs into the sand, providing opportunities for children to experiment with both wet and dry materials, understand their comparative properties , sharpen their scientific knowledge and develop their building skills.

A playground pump provides a water source, easily manipulated by small hands. . The  children work together to control the flow through timber channels, around natural boulders and over a pebble playscape, through controllable dams and over a ball valve, until the water flows through to the sand.  The addition of child height hooks and a range of play resources mean that children can self-select what they want to play with in the water.

A magical setting for creative and small world play, the extensive sand area has at its centre a treasure island, a pebble playscape reached via tottering along a narrow timber bridge or over the natural boulder stepping stones. A crane and mud and sand table encourages children to transport the sand onto the table, where it can be built with, examined or used to create imaginative landscapes. Similarly, a Building Site encourages social development as children work together to transport the sand from one area to another.

A  willow tepee and sail shades not only provide shade from the sun, but also  space for creative play, to meet with friends or quiet reflection.

The landscaping incorporates artificial grass mounds, planting and an exciting underground tunnel, delighting the children and providing unusual passage from one area to another. The narrowness of the tunnel necessitates negotiation, so children can pass and share the space.


  • Sand and water nurture the development of literacy, language and numerical skills
  • The flexibility of the space lends itself well to use with play resources, for themed activities and targeted workshops
  • The arrangement and choice of equipment encourage better communication, social interaction and negotiation
  • Small spaces provide opportunity for quiet communication, reflection and creative play
  • Open ended and flexible space, that many children can use at the same time
  • Boulders, pebble playscape and timber bridges support the development of physical skills, learning through moving and doing
  • The tunnel helps develop children’s negotiation skills, so they can pass comfortably and be considerate of other users, as well as providing a secret den for creative play. The positioning of the tunnel also helps develop balance skills
  • Self-determined, self-directed, open ended flexible play provision
  • Water play area provides so much learning support, assisting children in understanding how water flows, how this can be controlled and how they can cause water to enter and leave the system.

Equipment: Play water pump, natural water channel, timber channel with wedge, ball valve and concrete dish, sleeper balance beam, timber bridge, free standing crane, mud & sand table, small building site

Landscaping: Grass mounding, tunnel, pebble playscape, natural boulders, planting, treasure island, boulder stepping stones, willow tepee.

What the client said…