Children are enjoying the great outdoors more than ever at their school after the grounds were given a makeover.

The early years garden at Hartside Primary Academy, in Crook, County Durham, was improved after funds were raised and helping hands secured to get the job done.

Housing association believe housing awarded a £1,000 community investment grant to the school, which also received funding from Tesco Community Grant and raised money itself with activities including sponsored runs.

And regional construction company BCE Northern agreed to refurbish the garden as a social value contribution, as part of its contract with believe housing to carry out environmental improvement works in Peterlee.

Garden improvements included new fencing, landscaping, and planting, the sandpit was refreshed, and new resources for play, including a mud kitchen, have been added.

The Northern Echo:

Early Years Foundation Stage teacher Ava Acaster said the garden had been enjoyed by pupils for many years but needed rejuvenating.

The school believes passionately in the benefits of outdoor play and learning to support children’s health and wellbeing, nurture skills such as problem-solving, creativity, and resourcefulness, and to help them to understand and respect nature and the environment.

Miss Acaster said: “Children need an outdoor environment that can provide them with space, both upwards and outwards, and places to explore, experiment, discover, be active and healthy, and to develop their physical capabilities.

“For many children, playing outdoors at their early years setting may be the only opportunity they have to play safely and freely while they learn to assess risk and develop the skills to manage new situations.
“We were desperate to give the children the garden they deserve so we are incredibly grateful to believe housing, their contractor BCE, and other supporters for helping us to do that.

“Since the refurbishment, the garden is now a place where children want to be — a place they can play and explore in a safe, clean, and interesting garden once again.

“Behaviour in school has improved — as children are now able to play, explore and channel their emotions outside — and we are able to extend our learning opportunities far beyond the classroom.”

The Northern Echo:

Adrian Barton, Managing Director of BCE Northern, said: “We were delighted to be involved in such a rewarding project to transform the school’s outdoor space into a safe and exciting garden that the children can enjoy and thrive in.

“We are committed to enhancing the wellbeing and opportunities in the communities that we work in and are always thrilled to contribute to local community projects like this one.”

Gary Alderson is a Project Manager at County Durham-based believe housing, which provides more than 18,000 affordable homes and a range of services and support for customers and communities.

He said: “We want to have a lasting and positive impact in our communities, so it is great when different teams at believe housing and partners come together to make good things happen.

“We knew about the school’s garden project because of the community investment grant we awarded it, and BCE were more than happy to make it a reality.

“It is good to know that together we’ve helped the school to create a place where youngsters can thrive.”