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Inclusive playground audit for schools: How do you measure up?

Inclusive playground audit for schools: How do you measure up?

Time on the playground is often the favourite part of the school day for many children. Engaging in outdoor play and exercise helps improve concentration but is also the perfect opportunity for social and language development. 

Having an inclusive playground can help or hinder child development. How inclusive is your playground? We share a simple, inclusive playground audit for your outdoor provision. 

What is an inclusive playground? 

Before we audit your current playground provision, it is helpful to unpick what inclusion means. Inclusive play and playground areas allow all children to engage in active and imaginative play. They are a safe haven for those who prefer the quieter aspects of playtime and energy releasers for others. 

So, what does an inclusive playground look like? Inclusivity will differ from school to school, meeting the specific SEND needs of your pupils. It is important to note that inclusion covers more than SEND. 

Inclusive playground audit: How inclusive is your school? 

Let’s get into it: an inclusive playground audit for you to review your current provision. It may highlight changes needed or unknown areas you can shout about during your next Ofsted inspection. 

Accessibility of the playground: Ranging from physically accessible to being accessible for children with sensory needs. 

  • Does your playground exclude any children due to different levels? (Steps or limited handrails etc.)
  • Is your playground accessible to those who have noise sensitivities?
  • Does your current outdoor area allow for significant communication and language development?
  • Are any of your children excluded from interacting with playground sections due to a lack of equipment?

Flexibility of playground equipment: Flexibility of equipment is required to allow more children with different interests to engage with the resources.

  • Is your playground equipment versatile? (Can it create a sensory circuit and challenge fitness, teamwork, and SEND needs?)
  • Do children of all ages engage with the playground facilities?
  • Is there minimal equipment relying on fast-paced, active games to entertain during playtimes and lunchtimes?
  • Do the playground areas offer multiple uses? (Language and friendship development, as well as strength building and covering aspects of the EYFS 7 areas of learning.)

Inclusive playground areas: Having different pockets of areas in your playground not only increases the types of games children choose to play but can also cater for different SEND needs and make your playground inclusive. 

  • Does your playground offer quiet spaces away from fast-paced, active games?
  • Can your children always access sensory gardens or quiet spaces, or must they be supervised?
  • Do you have areas and equipment to support all eight sensory systems?
  • Are your fast-paced, active game areas sectioned to avoid injuries for passing children?
  • Are there areas of your playground where children can engage with musical instruments creatively?
  • Do you have sections of your playground or EYFS outdoor area that cater to water, sand and messy play?

Sensory playground areas: A large part of inclusive playgrounds are the sensory feedback possibilities they offer children.

  • Does your playground have a sensory garden
  • Is the sensory garden monitored to keep it quiet and peaceful? 
  • Are children given access to sensory circuits
  • Are the sensory circuits planned in a sequence? 
  • Do children have opportunities to seek sensory feedback for the vestibular system (balance)? 
  • Are different textures used across the playground? 

Simple to use: Overly complicated sections of playgrounds can make accessibility an issue. If certain sections require additional resources to be able to use or perfect weather conditions, it can become a waste of valuable playground space. 

  • Do your current playground areas require significant adult intervention for safety? 
  • Are additional resources and equipment needed to use sections of your playground? (Like badminton nets or tennis nets.)
  • Can your playground be used without needing specific instructions, supporting imaginative, child-led play? 

Teacher supervision: An inclusive playground must also be practical; having exciting equipment is excellent, but not if it requires a safety schedule to be used. 

  • Can your children engage in your inclusive playground without significant adult intervention?
  • Do your children need schedules to use one favoured piece of equipment?
  • Are your teachers trained in supporting play on an inclusive playground? (Encouraging language development, helping with social interaction strategies and aiding frustration tolerance.)

Communication and language development: Over 1 in 10 children have a life-long language disorder. Social times like playtime and lunchtime are vital times to promote discussions and conversations between children. 

  • Does your playground have equipment that sparks curiosity and conversation?
  • Are there areas of your inclusive playground that cover the EYFS 7 areas of learning? 
  • Do the sections of your playground encourage communication and language development? 
  • Do the sections of your playground give children leadership opportunities? 

Creating the win: Giving children self-belief and confidence in their own abilities is vital for developing managed risk-takers. Your outdoor space must encourage children to win and complete a task or activity successfully. 

  • Does your playground offer all children the chance to win? 
  • Can children work independently and in small groups on tasks? 
  • Do your children have simple sensory circuits to interact with?

How to create an inclusive playground. 

After completing the inclusive playground audit, you may have realised there are areas of strength and areas you need to improve on. So, how do you create an inclusive playground? 

Design an inclusive playground. 

It all begins with the design; think about the needs of your SEND children and see which areas you need to improve in your current provision. The design should be simple, adaptable and suitable for the shape and size of your playground. 

Ask children about their ideal inclusive playground. 

Ask the children in your school about their favourite areas to play in on your playground and why. Ensure you ask a variety of ages, abilities and interests. You could take your inclusive playground design options to the school council to give them the final say on the layout. 

Observe a SEND child for the day. 

An activity some Ofsted inspectors may undertake during inspections, it is essential to know how your SEND children interact with your playground and how inclusive it is. Choose a few SEND children to observe and monitor during breaktimes and lunchtimes for a week. Notice their interaction with particular equipment, limited time on favourite equipment, or accessibility issues. 

Identify your inclusive playground budget. 

Your inclusive playground budget depends on how exciting you can make it. Inclusive playgrounds can still be created using recyclable materials; you may need to be a little more thrifty and plan your sections to be regularly rotated. 

If your school plans to use Pupil Premium, SEND or fundraising to create an inclusive playground paradise, or you are just starting with a few staple pieces. Consider contacting SEND playground experts for advice on which inclusive playground layout would suit your children best. 

Contact outdoor playground experts. 

Playtime by Fawns has over 30 years of experience designing and fitting school playgrounds; with expert SEND knowledge, the team can offer advice to meet sensory, social or accessibility needs. 

Take a look at our latest brochure to gather inspiration, or contact one of our expert team for advice and support on 01252 515199 or via our sales team. 

Some more articles you may like: 

How effective is your free flow play provision in the early years?

How to encourage inclusive play at primary school. 

Sensory circuit ideas for schools: Outdoor edition. 

How to create a sensory garden in your school.