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Town Close School in Norfolk Magazine
Time and Space to Play
It sometimes seems as if time and space have become obsolete ideals in our modern world. Technology has enabled endless activity, social interaction and development, with our lives filled with communication, work, shopping, entertainment and learning all hours of the day. Such convenience, progress and liberation may have come at an unintended cost, however: time and space. Schools are increasingly mirroring the adult world with endless assessments and pressure and a narrowing classroom-based curriculum, devised to exceed targets without considering the cost. Children are increasingly denied time and space to enjoy a broad and varied schooling as well as one of the most important childhood activities: play.
At Town Close School we offer an alternative, giving equal weight to our provision of space to learn, space to grow and space to play, and these spaces are not mutually exclusive. Giving our children a space to play is giving them an essential space to learn and grow. Learning through play is a widely endorsed teaching practice in the Early Year’s classrooms, rightfully so, leading to higher levels of joy and active engagement. Children socialise, share, problem-solve and negotiate, developing life skills that will continue to evolve as they grow older. Taking play outside only heightens the benefits: vitamin D, fresh air and exercise as well as an essential exposure to nature. Our beautiful 15-acre woodland site offers a plethora of opportunities.
What sets us apart as a school is that our approach to play and outdoor space extends far beyond the early years, right through to our Year 8 pupils. At a time when breaks are often shortened to minimise the chance of things going wrong in unstructured time, our children have extended playtimes within a longer school day, developing key attributes further, promoting exercise and mental health and allowing children to have fun. We ensure they use this time well by instilling the responsibility and trustworthiness in our children, and by providing lots of different spaces and options to suit all preferences. When children do make mistakes, we follow these up sensibly and ensure valuable life lessons are learnt.
Our outdoor spaces are often just as busy in lesson times with interactive music on the front lawn, science experiments amongst the trees or electric kart testing on the playground, stretching children’s imaginations and developing skills far beyond the traditional curriculum. Break and after-school clubs provide options to run an activity trail through woods, play in the cricket nets or on the table tennis tables or perhaps join a club that places enjoyment at its heart. This philosophy combines with a curriculum that puts breadth at its heart, where poetry, art, languages, music, drama, technology and sport sit side by side with traditional academic subjects, developing skills far beyond what is measured in league tables. By giving them this space, we are not only giving them back their childhoods but also equipping them to lead healthy, purposeful and happy lives as they grow up in our ever-changing world.