Schools play a vital role in encouraging children to be active. Many are improving their outdoor spaces to provide more opportunities for play and learning outside. But with budgets tightening, schools are doing all they can to raise funds to support play projects. So, where to start with the fundraising campaigns?
A good starting point is the Association of Play Industries (API), whose member companies are leading manufacturers, installers, designers and distributors of outdoor and indoor play equipment and safety surfacing. API members are experts in the design, creation and installation of learning and play spaces, multi-use games and play areas, play equipment and resources, and they understand schools’ specific objectives and the design bespoke play solutions that they require.
The API website and member directory both provide advice, resources and links on planning and project guidance, fundraising, design and risk assessment. Schools that choose an API member company will be working with a reputable, financially stable and experienced play partner who understands the education world.
When planning a play area, it is vital to agree objectives and desired outcomes. Key planning stage considerations include the following:
Age group. Children of different ages play in different ways. A play company will work closely with you to ensure that all equipment is age-appropriate and conforms to latest standards.
The number of children likely to be playing at any one time is key, as is the planned use of the space. Play equipment standards are based on minimum user numbers rather than a large number of children playing at the same time, so designs should be based on maximum numbers.
Safety surfacing absorbs impact, protecting children against critical headinjury. Your play supplier will advise on the best surfacing options for your site.
Consider the safety and accessibility of the proposed site for your play area. Think about how children will access it, and assess any possible hazards.
Risk. Risk assessments needn’t restrict children’s enjoyment. Children enjoy and actively benefit from a degree of risk when playing – so provide plenty of challenges.
Conformity to standards. Outdoor playground equipment, safety surfacing and multi-sports equipment should conform to relevant standards. While not mandatory, they are viewed as best practice by the API, the UK play industry and judicial systems.
Post-installation inspection. This should take place before a new play area opens. Commissioned by the play company or school, the inspection is undertaken by a registered, certificated Register of Play Inspectors International (RPII) outdoor inspector.
Repair and maintenance. Regular servicing and replacement of worn out parts is essential to keep play equipment safe and compliant. API members provide nationwide maintenance and repair services.
Budget is important, too. Whether you are making Capital Expenditure investment from your school budget or via PTA fundraising efforts, numerous resources exist to help support schools with funding. The API website’s Funding section provides wide-ranging resources, advice and links, and API member companies work closely with schools to identify possible funding streams and to support applications.
Another good source of funding advice is ‘How to Raise Funds for Children’s Play’, a detailed factsheet by the API-funded Children’s Play Information Service which sets out how to structure a funding application, types of funding organisations and key funding websites.
While centralised funding for play in schools is rare, earlier this year the government announced an annual guarantee of £150 million for School Sport Premium funding until 2020. Outdoor play equipment promoting physical activity and movement skills is eligible for this funding. Sport England has also recently launched Primary Spaces, an £18 million fund to provide outdoor facilities for schools with little or no outside space for PE, sport and active play.
However you plan to fund your school’s investment in play, working with API members will guarantee peace of mind.