In July 2023, a much-anticipated and much-needed addition to Weston-super-Mare was the Castle Batch all-inclusive play area. Which was officially opened to the public by the cutting of the yellow ribbon by Mayor Councillor Ciaran Cronnelly. In September of the same year, the now popular park faced adversity when it was temporarily closed due to vandalism, with the trampoline in the top section still closed and under repair
Why we need an all-inclusive park.
According to Hannah Dobbin, author of Scopes ‘Let’s Play Fair Playbook’ the ‘Let’s Play Fair survey’ in 2023 unveiled that 49% of parents with disabled children say there are accessibility problems with playgrounds. And a shocking one in ten (11%) having minimal or no access at all to there local playground.
Local data published in 2022 by North Somerset Parent Carers Working Together CIC, revealed the depth of the need for local exclusivity. In the North Somerset area, there are 65 primary schools and 11 secondary schools all of which have SEND provision needs.
Additionally, 2.9% of the school population holds ‘education, health and care’ (EHC) SEND plans, and 12% receive SEND support, equating to 4,828 children in formal education in North Somerset.
Castle Batch was identified as an ideal site for this specialist play area due to its level access carpark and bus routes, and desperate need for refurbishment. The closest dedicate SEN park to residents within Weston super Mare is at Kingston Seymour which is 13 miles away and a 25-minute car journey.
Design and Features
The design of the Castle Batch play area was aesult of a collaborative effort with special needs schools in Weston-super-Mare, local SENCO teachers, Weston Town Council public consultation reactions and specialist play equipment providers Sutcliffe play. The park has a wheelchair roundabout, wheelchair swing and accessible swings along with many assessable futures including a sensory natural planting area and additional trees. Roy Allcock from Sutcliffe play explains that the colours in yellow are for high visibility as there is movement in these areas.
The refurbishment of Castle batch park to become an all-inclusive play area is an ambitious project for a cost of £400,000 for the 0.85 acres / 3,456.41m2 park.
This was achieved with the collaboration of community partners who have generously helped to make this project happen:
Impact on Children with SEND
Play ground equipment support children to develop not just physically but also cognitively. Developing Gross motor skills that allow us whole-body movement. According to Gail Belsky who is an is executive editor at Understood.
‘Gross motor skills are related to:
• Body awareness
• Physical strength
• Reaction time
Having poor gross motor skills can impact people in all areas of life. It can make it hard to do key tasks and school, work, and home. Difficulty with motor skills can also take a toll on self-esteem .
Children on the autistic spectrum can often but not in every case have difficulty with gross motor skills.
Emma Homan writing for Pentagon Play who specialise in creating outdoor learning environments for schools and children with special educational needs argues the impact outdoor play can have on the mental health of children with SEN needs. She says, ‘Exploring the world outdoors can help children with SEN to overcome challenges and learn new skills, building their resilience, and boosting their self-confidence.’
The key outcome here is self esteem and confidence which in itself is an all-inclusive outcome for children playing at Castle Batch.
One parent who uses the park said – “Having an inclusive playground has made my child feel equal and valued. Tom is in a wheelchair and we always found it difficult when his younger sister was playing in local play areas, as Tom would get bored and his sister would want to stay in the park longer. We live just outside the area of Weston-super-Mare and travel in to use the park. We have found the other children at Castle Batch are more interested in playing with Tom. When on the wheelchair roundabout, other children like to come and watch, or be on the roundabout with him or help push which is great. The park can get busy and, on some occasions, we have had to park on the street as the car park was full, so it could do with some designated parking bays. That being said, it’s a small problem for an incredible space”.
All children need to play and feel equal and included. It helps form relationships and gives opportunities for non-disabled children to learn about disabled children and see disabled children as children who like to play and have fun.
It is hoped that Castle Batch will form a community group to support the play area. With the potential to work alongside Weston Town Council and other business and organisations to expand the opportunities at the site, with the potential of outdoor gym equipment, coffee and pizza truck concessions and an expanded seating area and even a skate park for the older children to feel more included in the space and less likely to vent frustrations on this much needed equipment.
Castle Batch All-Inclusive SEND Play Area in Worle is more than just a playground; it is a testament to the power of community, inclusion, and the belief that every child, regardless of ability, deserves a place to play.
Many parts of this article come from published press releases and blog posts by the author for Weston Town Council. These have been reposted and published by third party organisations. https://wsm-tc.gov.uk/our-services/parks-play-areas/castle-batch-all-inclusive-send-play-park/
Gail Belsky What are gross motor skills? https://www.understood.org/articles/all-about-gross-motor-skills
Emma Holman How Outdoor Play Can Be Beneficial for Children with Special Educational Needs https://www.eyalliance.org.uk/how-outdoor-play-can-be-beneficial-children-special-educational-needs#:~:text=Children%20learn%20how%20to%20communicate,and%20boosting%20their%20self%2Dconfidence.