Lunchtimes at Minchinhampton Academy In some schools playtimes are seen simply as a break and a chance to play. Here at Minchinhampton we see playtimes, instead, as a unique and rich opportunity for tapping into children’s natural enthusiasm for play; for providing them with really stimulating activities; for learning.
Support during playtimes
Ensuring playtimes are active and fun is the best kind of support we can offer. We also aim to be proactive and step in before problems escalate and to look into problems carefully when they do occur. Our midday supervisors are now supported, every lunchtime, by a member of the senior management team; by 2 play coordinators who are employed, at this time, specifically to organise activities; by the head teacher and by our pastoral manager. Pupil play leaders are now trained and supported to provide activities for younger pupils and we also train pupil peer mediators to help solve minor disputes.
In terms of learning, I would bring you back to our school vision: ‘Pupils with a love of learning who care about others.’ I know vision statements can sound trite but we try hard to remain true to this one and nowhere more visibly than in our approach to play at lunchtime. We want our pupils to use their initiative and be creative, divergent thinkers who explore many possible solutions to a problem. We also want them to be resilient and persevere when faced with a challenge and to be responsible for themselves and others. We want them growing up to be independent, motivated, confident learners. We have developed our play provision with some of these things in mind. The Scrapstore Project has encouraged our children to use their imaginations and to take calculated risks. The playground landscape (with its banks and steps) already lends itself well to the good use of the Scrap Store and we have erected structures in the playground which are open ended and encourage creative play.
Woodhenge is part of this ongoing play project. We wanted it to be a climbing structure and were determined that it was challenging. If our children are to become independent and confident, we need to provide them with controlled opportunities to encounter and manage their own risk. They need the chance to stretch themselves and test and develop their own abilities. Apart from the good learning that comes out of this, it will help children to equip themselves to deal with similar hazards in the wider world.
Health and Safety:– throughout the design process and the actual building, we were guided by health and safety experts who ensured we adhered to all relevant health and safety guidance. We have worked with the children and staff to ensure that the children fully appreciate where there might be risk; that suitable rules are followed for its use and suitable levels of supervision are provided. One area of obvious concern is the use of the apparatus before and after school when the children’s play would not be supervised. I am interested primarily in ‘setting us up for success’ so that health and safety concerns do not end up compromising the use of the apparatus. Therefore children are not to use it before or after school.