[Video] Glebe Academy, Staffordshire

“Creative and wondrous, filled with inspirational and unforgettable learning experiences.”

That’s what a primary school experience should be, according to Glebe Academy in Stoke-on-Trent.


Headteacher Suzanne Oakes-Smith wants pupils to enjoy and achieve in a safe, magical place to learn and has high expectations of them. Situated in a highly deprived, heavily built up area, many houses have no gardens so opportunities for children to play safely outdoors are limited. The school wanted to tackle that problem head on and turned to Playforce for help.

The brief
The school had a very small tarmac play space and a large but completely inaccessible bark area. The school was converting to Academy status when we first met and wanted to create a WOW factor that ensured the outdoor learning environment encapsulated the vision for the academy where increased and enhanced learning and play opportunities were intrinsic.


Behaviour, specifically at lunch time, has significantly improved. This really gives the playground a ‘wow’ factor that the children are proud of and feel they have ownership of. Our outdoor space has now become a focal point of our school community.

The solution
First, we removed the bark and replaced it with Play Lawn artificial grass to create access all year round. Then we installed two Tipis and a Lookout Lodge which provide opportunities for social interaction, imaginative play and space for more structured learning like reading, circle time and small group work.

Then we developed a sports area with a rubberised Wetpour Surface and Timber Goal Ends. This provides the perfect zone for external sports coaches to run lessons and also ensures that football doesn’t take over the entire play space during break times.


The result
The new outdoor space has had a really positive impact. Headteacher Suzanne Oakes-Smith says: “Behaviour, specifically at lunch time, has significantly improved. The Tipis and seating areas are especially popular for those seeking quiet time. This really gives the playground a ‘wow’ factor that the children are proud of and feel they have ownership of. Our outdoor space has now become a focal point of our school community.”

The school were impressed by our professional approach and really appreciated the way we went the extra mile.

“The personalised service we received was second to none. The playground design was produced specifically for our needs, space and budget with no additional extras. The work was scheduled to meet our requirements and was completed efficiently and safely over four days whilst the school remained open. Considering this was our main entrance, disruption was minimal and the playground was even completed two days early. The Playforce team was brilliant from start to finish. We recommend Playforce and will use them again in future.”


The school has some helpful advice for other academies looking to update their playground or oudoor space:
1. Set your budget and stick to it so your design is realistic and achievable from the start.
2. Work closely with your playground designer. Don’t be afraid to cut things out, swap or change your design until you are completely happy with the solution.
3. Think about how you will introduce your new play area to your excited children once it’s completed as they will all want to use it at once!

“No hard sell, nothing was too much trouble and you delivered on your promises. Thank you for our lovely new playground.”