Sheffield school opens sensory garden to create 'tranquil environment' for SEN children

A Sheffield school has opened a sensory garden to create a ‘tranquil environment’ for children with special educational needs.

By Alana Roberts
Wednesday, 24 July, 2019, 10:02
Staff and pupils celebrate the opening of a new sensory garden at Ecclesfield Primary School

Ecclesfield Primary School applied for funding to help overhaul the outdoor space through a Santander Discovery Days initiative last summer.

However since June, when staff were told they had been successful in their bid, it has been all systems go to provide a space to support those children who struggle to manage a full day in the classroom.

Pupils Anisah Iqbal and Jackson and Riley Crookes in the new sensory garden

The garden is an extension of the school’s nurture provision, which works with vulnerable or disadvantaged children, and those who have safeguarding or mental health issues which require bespoke pastoral care.

Lauren Stevenson, Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator at Ecclesfield Primary School, said: “The children will be able to use the garden at set times. This is normally around transition times such as in the morning when they come to school or after lunch time when they need that tranquil environment and calm down time. It will support the children with their emotional regulation.”

The banking group, who donated £250 to the school in Ecclesfield, released a handful of staff for a day to carry out any manual work such as planting flowers or digging soil.

A further £500 was also put towards the project from the school fund.

Staff from Santander carrying out work for the sensory garden at Ecclesfield Primary School

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Mrs Stevenson added: “I also lead a nurture classroom within school for children with social, emotional and mental health difficulties and the pupils have been designing and making things for the garden.”

The outdoor space is split into different areas to stimulate the senses, such as hearing, sight and touch.

It features everything from a mud kitchen in the soil and toys for the children to play in the rocks, to a solar water feature, windmills, mirrors and plants to smell such as lavender.

The school hosted an official opening ceremony on July 18, inviting parents, carers and children to play in the garden.

“Since the opening the children have been in the garden every day and they absolutely love it,” Mrs Stevenson said. “The mud kitchen in particular is going down a storm! We’ve got a bumblebees and ladybirds area, which is like a hopscotch, and that is really lovely.

“It helps to facilitate conversation between the children whereas some wouldn’t normally speak, and it provides a calm social space that these children need.”

Sharon Fletcher, Customer Service Team Leader in Sheffield, who organised the Discovery Day, said: "It was great to be able to give something back to our community. The whole team really got stuck in. I hope that pupils that attend the school truly enjoy the refreshed sensory garden for years to come.”

The garden at Ecclesfield Primary School before the overhaul