Pupils at Roydon Primary School left without play equipment for two years
Primary school children have been left without play equipment for two years after it was taken down during a major building project.
More than £50,000 of outdoor equipment was taken down during a multi-million-pound expansion of Roydon Primary School, leaving pupils with just an empty playground and school field to keep themselves entertained on during breaks.
Now officials have found the equipment is no longer fit for purpose.
Norfolk County Council (NCC), who run Roydon Primary, have now offered the school £12,000 - leaving teachers with the difficult decision on what to replace.
In October 2019, an ambitious £5.75 million renovation of the school, in Manor Road, was completed, which saw eight new classrooms, new changing rooms, and pupil capacity increased from 250 to 420.
However during the project, contractors took down the school’s existing play equipment - which included a den building area, a wooden train, a four part trim trail and a wooden climbing frame - putting it into storage where it has rotted and decayed beyond the point of repair.
Sarah Bradford, headteacher at the school, said: “It was agreed from the beginning of the project that the school’s outdoor play equipment would be put into storage and re-installed at the end.
“The children have waited so patiently for two years, and they were excited to see the plans drawn up as the building work neared completion.
“Unfortunately, we have since found that we are now left with a huge pile of rotting wood, broken and bent poles, cut ropes, and no hope of any of it being put back together again.”
With almost two years without access to any equipment, parents at the school are beginning to worry that it is having a detrimental impact on the development of their children.
Natalie Thornton-Jones, whose child is a pupil at Roydon Primary, said: “Since 2018 the children have had no outdoor play equipment to enjoy and explore - there is just a flat grey playground and an empty field.
“Outdoor equipment is so important for children to practise physical skills like climbing, balancing, jumping, skipping and co-ordination. Not to mention the social aspect and positive impact on mental health.
“We are in a desperate situation as now more than ever with all of the social restrictions and lockdowns the children have been through they need space to play freely, be imaginative, get physical exercise and make friendships.”
The lack of an outdoor area was also criticised in Roydon’s latest Ofsted report, from January this year, which determined that the school “requires improvement”.
The report said: “There is still more to be done to organise the learning environment for these younger children, so the early years curriculum can be delivered effectively.
“The outside space needs to be developed so that activities give children opportunities to apply their knowledge and skills across all areas of learning.”
NCC have coughed up £12,000 to replace the equipment - just 0.2 per cent of the cost of the initial renovation - but teachers warned that it was nowhere near enough to replace the damaged equipment.
Cllr John Fisher, cabinet member for Children’s Services at NCC, said: “The council has invested £5.75 million in the expansion and refurbishment of Roydon Primary School, building six new classrooms, a brand new hall, new kitchen, new entrance and offices, and a refurbished library area.
“We did remove outdoor play equipment, which was quite a few years old, to make this work possible. It was stored while the improvement work was carried out but unfortunately was not in a good enough condition to re-instate at the end of the project as we had originally planned.
“We have therefore offered the school £12,000 towards new play equipment and we are waiting to hear whether they accept this offer.”
The school has accepted the offer, but it has left teachers with the tough decision over what needed to be prioritised.
Mrs Bradford said: “We now need to decide whether to use that to replace six doors so that children can access the outdoor play areas, or put it towards making good the outdoor learning environment for our youngest children.”