YOUNG Boccia champions have celebrated their win by helping to officially open their school’s new Creative Play playground.
The Kent County winning youngsters from Greenfields Community Primary School in Maidstone were picked to join the school’s Chair of Governors, Pam Payne, to officially open the new outdoor equipment, designed, manufactured and installed by outdoor play experts Creative Play.
Boccia, which is a precision ball sport related to bowls, is primarily a disability sport and schools, such as Greenfields, also have teams for children who have learning difficulties.
Greenfields has found that being part of a Boccia team has given those pupils a real confidence boost and created friendships that have made them feel more inclusive.
Headteacher Dan Andrews said this reflects well the aim of the new playground, which includes a basket swing suitable for children with physical disabilities and for all children to play on together.
The playground project has been in development for three months and the finished area has swings, climbing apparatus, see saws, a roundabout, a slide and a multi-coloured safety surface.
It was funded using a combination of school funds and cash generated through fundraising events in the community.
Mr Andrews, who has been head for nearly six years, said:
“The new play area has been something we’ve been pushing towards for a while. We’re more flexible about lunch time now. We allow the children to play with a mix of older and younger kids, and when you’re ready to go out and play you can. We’ve already got multi use games areas but we thought what else can we offer them to aid their physical development? There is nothing like playing in the playground to boost a child’s physical well-being and resilience. If they’re busy and engaged their attitude to learning is better. Creative Play were recommended to me and the playground is really good quality. It’s not just about what was installed, it’s the way it was installed.
“They provided help and guidance - they were really interested in what we wanted and getting it right. We had a chat with the children about what they wanted and we decided to be traditional with swings and roundabouts, a slide, climbing frames and seesaws. We wanted a playground where we get as many children engaged as possible. To make it feel like they’re at the park with their friends pushing each other on the swings.”
Wendy Ball, who is the school’s sports and wellbeing officer, added:
“What really impressed me was that during the building work we were still able to host two sports tournaments - a cross country event and a football event. Despite the building work going on in the middle of the playground, the staff were really helpful and made it safe for us to host other schools and over 140 people in total. To be able to still do that with the work going on was amazing and I know the other schools were very impressed.”
Tim Broster, sales manager at Creative Play, said:
“It’s a very traditional play area with swings, seesaws and our very popular Jigsaw Tower which includes a slide. It looks stunning and I’m delighted that Greenfields are pleased with the result."
“From my perspective, we always invite questions and listen rather than try and drive the customer towards something. Greenfields were fabulous to work with. Dan and the team were friendly and open. We were given clear guidelines to work with on what was a lengthy and big project. The strength of the project was built on the communication we had with the school and it is wonderful to see it all come to fruition and see the children enjoying it. To have the school champion Boccia team here to officially open it with the Chair of Governors is the icing on the cake. They are thoroughly deserving of the honour.”
Wendy has overseen the development of the Boccia teams in school and said watching some of the pupils celebrate becoming county champions was a proud moment.
“We started playing Boccia two years ago. We have the School Games Gold Mark and our aim is to take part in every sport and try to enter every competition we can. Our motto is ‘sport for everyone’. We want everyone to represent the school in something. To stand in assembly and be celebrated. You don’t realise just how much it means to their wellbeing. We got the Boccia equipment and set up mixed gender teams in different categories. We have a team with disabled children, a team with children who have physical development problems and those who struggle with learning.
“Normally a lot of these kids would never take part in other sports in school. This gave them that opportunity. We recently took part in a local schools tournament and had two of our four teams win and reach the Kent County tournament. It was held at the University of Kent and was very competitive. It was a really big competition for the kids.One of our teams won enough matches to win the tournament in the category for high functioning social, emotional and behavioural difficulties."
“What made it even better was that it was open to under 14s so they are competing against secondary schools when they are only aged 9-11. The kids were like celebrities in school. It gave them a huge confidence boost. Personally, it was one of the best days in the sporting calendar. It means so much to them, seeing their faces when they got given their medals was amazing.”
Dad of two Paul Russell says his nine-year-old son George, who was part of the county-conquering Boccia team, has come on leaps and bounds.
“He takes part with his mates and it’s made a huge difference. It’s given him something to focus his energy on. It really helps with his discipline because he has to stick to the rules. We face a lot of challenges with George, it’s mainly behavioural and he also has learning difficulties. He has difficulty understanding the consequences of his actions. This helps him understand there are rules and you can’t break them. I’m really proud of him. The difference in him has been unbelievable. I’ve got a daughter at the school too and they both love the new playground.”
Each Creative Play playground is designed to suit the client’s specifications, depending on their budget and location.
All of Creative Play’s equipment is designed and manufactured in Chester by the company’s in house teams, who use state of the art equipment and each specialise in timber, plastic or metal.
Creative Play’s own teams install all of the equipment and surfacing to meet the requirements of the client and their own rigorous quality standards.