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St Francis’ Primary School

Creating a new outdoor learning area helping children develop their motor skills and encouraging daily exercise
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St Francis’ Primary School in Drumaroad, Castlewellan, is using their £9,307 Awards for All grant to install a new outdoor learning and play area that is specially designed to help children develop their motor skills and encourage daily exercise.

The area is not just for children who attend the school – a Gaelic club, a cross-community playgroup and a youth club will all have access which means that children from across the local community will benefit from the project. The equipment in the play area has been specially chosen to make the area as accessible as possible for children with special educational needs or physical disabilities.

How is it People Led?

Before making their application, St Francis’ did a survey of both parents and pupils at the school. In this survey, 94% of parents and 98% of pupils identified the need for an outdoor learning area.

The school also connected with other youth and children’s groups in the area through monthly meetings and ongoing discussions. This means the project involved as many people from the local community as possible, and helped the project to meet the needs of the community better than if it had been designed without this input.

Together, these groups – along with the School Council – identified outdoor play and learning as a major priority for the local area. There is no such facility in the area already and although St Francis’ is taking the lead by co-ordinating the project, the whole community has participated in the project’s development.

How is it Strengths Based?

The community around the school is packed with skilled, enthusiastic people who are willing to help support this project. The school has fourteen trained classroom assistants and teacher who are eager to provide learning opportunities for the young people of the community, but who have been limited in what they can achieve because of a lack of resources. Members and coaches at the local GAA club, the Northern Irish FA, and the local playgroup are also excited to get involved, and will bring a range of experiences and expertise to the project.

By offering a new resource for the community to use, this project gives local people the opportunity to make the most of the skills and knowledge they already have.