Game on to transform city school’s tiny playground

Preston Street Primary pupils, from left, Rhianna Stewart, Finlay Pringle and Anna Goerke. Picture by JANE BARLOW
Preston Street Primary pupils, from left, Rhianna Stewart, Finlay Pringle and Anna Goerke. Picture by JANE BARLOW
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IT’S the Capital’s smallest school playground – a concrete yard not fit for much more than a game of tig.

Now parents, pupils and teachers at Preston Street Primary have launched a £40,000 campaign to transform the south Edinburgh school’s cramped grounds into an outdoor classroom and one of the city’s most innovative teaching spaces.

They want to revamp a concrete support structure that takes up a large amount of the limited playground space and was originally built to prevent an adjacent row of tenement flats from collapsing.

Teachers are working with architecture students from Edinburgh University to draw up designs for the structure and say the end result could include features such as soft-play areas and sandpits.

The drive comes only days after the school unveiled the fruits of a project which saw fallen trees from nearby Holyrood Park recycled to produce woodchip activity surfaces and larger play objects.

Teachers said the school was witnessing the beginnings of a “massive transformation” in play opportunities for about 270 pupils.

They stressed they would need all the help they can get from families, businesses and other supporters to underpin ongoing work, and predict a complete playground overhaul will cost at least £40,000.

P6 class teacher Heather Forbes said: “The structure supports the row of flats that’s next to the playground – unfortunately we can’t get rid of it. It has to stay.

“So we have to make the best of it by turning it into an outdoor classroom. It would be major work for the school but would definitely be worthwhile in the end. Play is so important for the pupils.”

Moves to revamp the support structure emerged as teachers look to introduce other changes to the way youngsters make use of outdoor areas.

Ms Forbes said pupils would shortly begin growing their own plants, vegetables and herbs, with staff hoping children can cook these and provide some of the meals consumed in school.

She added: “Since we brought in the woodchips, the change among the pupils has been amazing.

“There are no behavioural issues in the playground – the P6s play with the P1s, whereas before they tended to stick within their own year groups. It’s become much more collaborative. We’re looking for any help to transform the support structure into something the children can really use.”

Senior leaders at the school have backed the revamp and urged local supporters to do as much as they can to help.

Headteacher Maureen Allan said: “Outdoor learning is a vital part of the modern curriculum. Our new-look playground will provide a stimulating and exciting learning environment, not only for pupils, but also for parents and teachers.”

johnpaul.holden@edinburghnews.com