Inclusive School Playground Spaces
- Foursight Architects
We were engaged by the Victoria School Building Authority (VSBA) to deliver several dynamic play spaces as part of the Inclusive Schools Fund (ISF) Program — a program that supports the needs of children of all abilities. The program focuses on inclusive learning to improve the social and emotional wellbeing of children, while equipping school communities with spaces that support students’ growth and learning, and improve collaborative participation amongst all children, particularly those with limited abilities. We set out to aesthetically integrate various play elements — guided by universal design principles — to ensure each landscape promotes inclusivity and accessibility.
We transformed previously ordinary and underutilised zones into dynamic, welcoming, inclusive play spaces, allowing children who were previously excluded or restricted to have the opportunity to join in. We achieved this through the design of access, ensuring the path of travel into and within each playspace was accessible to all. We selected play elements that promote sensory learning, allowing all students to participate — no matter their ability. We delivered a solid design outcome that was transformative and impactful for each school community — future-focused inclusive play spaces that encourage play through a diversity of mediums.
The new play spaces have had a powerful impact on their respective school community. We have transformed what was previously limited and underutilised areas, into dynamic play spaces that welcome all children to collaborate and play together. These spaces foster inclusivity through stimulating accessible playground equipment, outdoor sensory gardens, and flexible learning spaces — children that were previously excluded or restricted to a limited playground now have the opportunity to join their peers in an area that caters to their ability. The immediate local community also benefits, as families now have the option to send their children, who may have limited abilities, to a local school that is accessible and inclusive of all abilities.
While utilising existing elements within each site, we ensured that each play space is free from hazardous materials. The focus on reusing and refurbishing rather than demolishing and replacing promotes sustainability to children. The incorporation of sustainable sensory gardens, compost, and water harvesting plays a key role in discovery, exploration, and imaginative play. We successfully transformed previously ordinary and underutilised zones into dynamic, welcoming, and inclusive play spaces, allowing children who were previously excluded or restricted to have the opportunity to join in.
We thoughtfully re-designed various pre-existing elements and features within these landscapes to extend the opportunity for all to participate in the activities that the new play spaces offer. Items such as sandpits and planter boxes have been reformed to allow children in wheelchairs to use these as alternatives to the regular inaccessible sandpit or planter box. This simple innovation allows all children to feel included, and promotes the snowball effect of social awareness, interaction & change, and importantly — discovery & imaginative play.
Form- We used locally sourced materials and reused existing elements wherever possible. Each area maximises space and adapts to its surroundings, and the elements incorporated into each unique design encourage children to immerse themselves in play.
Function- we have delicately balanced function and form, guaranteeing a functional, enjoyable, and safe user experience. We carefully considered the end-user at each stage of the design process and ensured dedicated interconnected pathways in each space that are easily accessible to people of all abilities.
Safety – In addition to the relevant Australian Standards for playgrounds, the ‘Guidelines for School Playgrounds’, and the ‘Building Quality Standards Handbook’, key risk factors such as critical fall heights and entrapment issues were all cautiously contemplated to alleviate any safety concerns.