Essex Can Do and Market Field School Courtyard

2 October 2018

By Leanne

Market Field School near Colchester in Essex is a special school for 220 children and young people between the ages of 5 and 16 who experience moderate learning difficulties. There is also an enhanced provision for pupils with Autism.

The school has a very large split-level courtyard with high walls, block paving and lovely views across the neighbouring fields. I felt very privileged that Gary Smith, Executive Head Teacher, gave me free rein to design the garden. 

Meetings and fun get-togethers

Market Field School is also the lead school of the Multi-Schools Council in Essex.

A before photo of Market Field School's courtyard

There are a further 46 schools who are members of the council which is committed to breaking down any negative perceptions towards people with a disability or a special educational need.

The MSC wants to change these perceptions by hosting child led events that integrate both special schools and mainstream schools.

I’m excited to say that members of the MSC would be able to use courtyards for events, official meetings and fun get-togethers.

Themed areas

The lower courtyard will be divided in two to create a vegetable growing area at the far end and a sensory play area as you enter the courtyard.

The upper courtyard will also be divided in two; an outdoor classroom and a relaxing well-being area.

The four areas will be themed, colourful, stimulating, interesting and most of all pique curiosity and aid learning. Large potted trees and bushes would be used to separate areas, add interest, and to enhance the outdoor feeling.

Vegetable patches and marigolds

The vegetable patch will have raised vegetable beds for easy-to-grow vegetables such as strawberries and raspberries.

It gives pupils the opportunity to learn about gardening and growing food, and they will help make signs for the flower and vegetables.

There will be accessible cold frames for growing vegetables and easy-to-grow flowers such as marigolds for pupils to take home or sell at a fundraising coffee morning.

Colourful, bright and fun

In the sensory area, different sensory pieces made by the pupils will come together to create a sensory wall at an accessible height for all to use.

This area will be colourful, natural, use wood rather than plastic, and be bright and fun.

The upper level well-being area will consist of quiet pockets of garden. There will small sand trays, soothing colours and textures such as cork, wooden benches and outdoor beanbags.

There will be lots of potted long grasses and bamboo to help provide a sense of privacy and comfort.

Birds, bees and butterflies

The outdoor classroom will have a woodland theme using bark chipping, and tree trunks for seating and wood benches.

This would be a great place for pupils to learn about nature.

On one wall pupils will create wooden and clay artwork of garden birds, bees, butterflies, snails and other bugs along with interesting facts.

This will help develop pupils’ interest in and knowledge of the natural world

The courtyard has been designed in a way that reflects the needs of the pupils, their learning goals and to encourage a love of the outdoors and all it has to offer.

Leanne is a Can Do Programme Coordinator in Essex.

Our Can Do Gardening projects are funded by National Garden Scheme.

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