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Tadcaster’s brilliant new outdoor areas

Tadcaster Primary Academy children are enjoying breathtaking outdoor learning and state-of-the-art play equipment thanks to efforts of parents, the support of local businesses – and a resourceful and dedicated school business manager.

Ruth Griffin started her job with the school, which joined Ebor Academy Trust last autumn, in September 2015. As a parent of two former pupils Ruth knew the school well and was keen to get involved in a “Pond and Beyond” project to renovate an outside area.

Tadcaster’s Early Years Foundation Stage wanted an outdoor learning space where children could look safely into a pond and also enjoy natural planting where they could see bees, butterflies and other insects close up.

The school has large playing fields so Ruth came up with a plan comprising a seating area, pond, flower beds, path, hedging and a willow structure – and then put in a plea for help from parents and carers. The response from the school community was impressive.

“We soon had a list of helpers including a farmer and a joiner, a pond expert and many who were willing to provide machinery, skills and labour,” said Ruth.

As with all good intentions, however, a major stumbling block was funding – until Ruth managed to obtain donations from Northern Gas and bakery chain Greggs. Between them the resulting £4,000 covered costs, including a safe pond cover and all-weather seating.

Work was completed over a bank holiday weekend.

Tadcaster Primary Academy headteacher Donna Bedford said: “Our school community have done us proud – the children love the outside space and being so close to nature enriches their learning. And they have so much fun! I’d also like to thank Ruth for her unswerving enthusiasm.”

What’s more, Ruth’s energy was still in full flow. In spring last year, with some funding left over, plus some dedicated sports funding and further grants from elsewhere, a plan came together to replace a tired, old, wooden outdoor play area. “On holiday I’d seen outdoor gym equipment and I knew if I could get the money together we could emulate the sort of equipment seen in an adult gym here in Tadcaster,” said Ruth.

Completing this second project then inspired yet further thinking. A colourful metal climbing frame with monkey bars and rope bridge was attractive – but unaffordable. However a bid for a National Lottery grant was submitted shortly before the end of last school year – and was successful. It was completed before Christmas.

“The frame helps with co-ordination, balance, fitness, courage and also teamwork – encouragement by others. The children get an enormous sense of achievement at the end if they manage to do it,” said Ruth. “The projects have been fun to do. The children and the parents love the outdoor areas now and they are a credit to the school.”