We are incredibly fortunate at St Michael’s to have an abundance of outdoor space. For the past few years now we have tried to look creatively at how that space can be used, so it is not just an area to spend break times in but a real extension of our learning space.

Our Home School Association very kindly helped us to purchase and install a wonderful outdoor classroom, which means that whatever the weather a whole range of lessons can take place outside. It has opened up all sorts of learning opportunities which are not always possible within the confines of the classroom walls.

This space is well used by all classes for everything from English and science to maths and beyond. It has also provided an amazing venue for wellbeing and nurture group activities and was a safe, outdoor space for some of our classes to meeting during lockdown – a vital boost to mental health for many.

Lots of our children thrive on being outdoors and the freedom brings out the best in them.

Two years ago we were delighted to be successful in a funding bid to install some playground equipment on our field. Along with the very generous donations by several local businesses and friends of the school, an area was created that not only made playtimes more fun but also gave us the scope to add some variety to sporting events and PE lessons.

The play equipment remains a huge hit with the children. Indeed, at times in the summer months we had to rota its use as so many of our children were desperate to test their climbing and balance skills. It is also a major pull for many local families who enjoy using it out of school hours – which is fantastic to see!

Although having a very large field has numerous benefits, it also has its drawbacks. The British weather and a lot of grass often leads to one thing – mud! In the past this has meant one of two things: either we avoid using the field for a significant proportion of the year or we end up with classes full of children (and consequently classrooms) who look like they have visited the mud baths.

Returning to school in September with the threat of Covid looming we were all aware that the more time the children could spend outdoors, especially for sporting activities, the safer it would be for everyone so we could not afford to have a whole field out of bounds due to mud. So at the beginning of this year we made the exciting decision to invest our government-awarded sports funding in the creation of a Multi-Use Games Area (MUGA). And what a hit it has been! Now whatever the weather we can access the field for break times, sports, learning activities and reward time. I know the children and staff will agree – we all love the MUGA!

Our next steps in pursuit of taking our learning outdoors are to further develop the area around our outdoor classroom so that we can introduce some Forest School activities into our curriculum and to develop the school garden. Many of our classes have enjoyed sessions at the local Stocks Wood Outdoor Centre. Watching the children’s confidence, resilience and sense of adventure grow through these sessions is magical.