Setting the Scene

Calthorpe Academy is a large urban special needs school in the centre of Birmingham catering for pupils aged 2 to 19.

The Head Teacher, Mounir Meghalsi believes “that all our learners have the right to be safe, engaged and happy to enable them to learn effectively. Our strength is our diversity, creativity and unconditional care for our learners who are at the centre of everything we do.”

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Customer Objectives

Calthorpe Academy wanted a complete overhaul of their existing senior school playground, to make the space more friendly, engaging, and safe for the pupils.

The existing equipment was very old and rotten; the playground itself had areas which were overgrown and unusable so the availability of viable play spaces for the children was limited. Calthorpe is a large school in a urban area, so maximising the playground capacity was key. 

The existing surfacing was very uneven and not safe or accessible for wheelchair users. There was a significant gap in the provision of age appropriate play equipment which provided challenges, particularly for the older pupils. There also needed to be a designated space for ball games, space for developing physical strength, and areas to sit, relax and have lunch. 

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Our Solution

The first aim was to open up the site by removing the overgrown areas and increasing the play space of the playground. We dug back into a large mound that couldn't be utilised behind the perimeter fence, which allowed us to push the fence line back by approximately 7m, greatly increasing the width of the main play area. Following that we installed Acoustic Fencing along the boundary to help mitigate the sound from the main road nearby due to the sites location in central Birmingham.

Once this was completed we worked to create a more inviting playful outside space. This was in part achieved by breaking up the dominance of grey tarmac in the playground by introducing different zones within the outside space, we did this by using a range of surfacing types including Just Like Grass, Play Grass and Bonded Rubber Mulch. 

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A key requirement was the installation of a Multi-Use Games Area ‘MUGA’ for the pupils, we used bright colours with Play Grass surfacing to denote the different areas of the pitch, meaning it can be used for standard ball games but also more imaginative active games. The Goal Ends were recessed with both football and basketball ends, we also included a recessed seating area for the children to wait or watch the action. A Running Track in bright colours was laid, consisting of anti-slip sports paint, with 6 running lanes and 1 wheelchair lane.

We installed high level Trim Trail to physically challenge the pupils including Up and Over Bars, Monkey Walk and Trapeze Swing and Parallel Bars. We agreed the height of the equipment with the school prior to installation to ensure it was suitably challenging for the pupils.

Towards the far end of the playground we constructed a large polycarbonate Sensory Canopy in the schools colours to provide shade and visual stimulation. The polycarbonate canopies act to block 98% of harmful UV rays.

The playground was transformed from an overgrown grey space into an inclusive play area to suit the older children in the Senior School.

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“Just some of the feedback from our learners and staff ‘Its awesome!’” Zoe Allcot, School Business Manager

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Originally published Mar 30, 2023 10:50:12 AM , updated January 30, 2024


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