Primary schools build over playgrounds to accommodate rising pupil numbers

The Telegraph is reporting that hundreds of primary schools are building over playgrounds and playing fields in order to accommodate growing numbers of pupils…

Play areas are being cut back at schools across the country as local authorities build additional classroom space to cope with an increasing demand for school places, a study shows.

Campaigners said the research showed that government measures to protect playing fields were failing to stop schools building over outdoor areas.

They argue that having time and space to play improves the physical and mental health of children, as well as helping them mix with other pupils and develop their imagination and creativity.

A study by the TES found that one in three primary schools (35 per cent) increasing the number of places for pupils, is cutting back on outdoor space.

Existing playgrounds and playing fields will remain the same size at 54 per cent of schools taking on more pupils – meaning the existing space will have to accommodate more children.

Only 11 per cent of schools said they were able to accommodate more pupils while increasing the size of existing playing areas.

The rise in the number of children in primary schools over recent years has been due an increasing birth rate and the effects of an influx of migrants in some areas.

The TES surveyed 957 schools expanding their number of places, at 82 local authorities.

Of those, 335 are reducing the amount of outdoor space, 520 are taking on more children without changing the size of play areas, while 102 are increasing space…

Juno Hollyhock, executive director of Learning through Landscapes, an outdoor learning and play charity said the Government should be more actively telling schools to find other ways of increasing their classroom space such as building upwards, rather than than using play areas…

A spokesman for the Department for Education said ministers had introduced “tough new laws” to ensure that the department had to give permission for classrooms to be built on playing fields…

More at: Primary schools build over playgrounds to accommodate rising pupil numbers


It is no doubt inevitable that if primary schools need to accommodate more pupils they will have to create extra classroom space and this will in turn normally mean losing outdoor space. but what about the idea of building upwards? How viable is that? Have a look at this guest post from last year:

Guest post: How we solved a problem of insufficient teaching space at a London primary school

How has your/your child’s school managed expansion? Please share in the comments or via Twitter…


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Categories: Primary.


  1. andylutwyche

    SchoolsImprove I’m afraid that anything the govt say about sport and school places must be taken with a bucket full of salt #theydonotcare

  2. andylutwyche

    SchoolsImprove Free schools are being set up in buildings that also have no/minimal play areas, as are new academies. Govt not bothered

  3. samflatman

    SchoolsImprove I don’t see why we can’t build upwards rather than over our vital outdoor play spaces ?

  4. garrodt

    SchoolsImprove MumsnetTowers NUTonline educationgovuk NASUWT Gove & Tory’s school plans,next cold damp porta-cabins,Nissan huts ?

  5. As per my comments regarding the story of March 6th
    “”, size of
    playground/playing field is less important than what a school actually does
    with it.
    Sports need a certain amount of space or they simply
    can’t function but good play can still take place within very limited
    Yes, if a school has a lovely big field it can always
    be put to good play use by those who know how, but it isn’t essential. Look at
    Victoria Park primary in inner-city Bristol, where 470 children have next to no
    outdoor space at all, yet the play offer, and the subsequent behavioural
    and developmental benefits they all accrue, are remarkable and
    certainly far better than many primary schools nearby with much bigger
    playgrounds/fields to offer the pupils.
    I find that most of the schools I visit typically have
    an overconfident, misjudged opinion of their outdoor play offer, which
    only lasts up until OPAL audits them and shows them where
    they’re going wrong.
    Most primary schools are appallingly bad at making use
    of this vital learning and health asset, which is probably why it is so
    tempting for LAs to build over. 
    This year alone, several “Outstanding” rated
    OPAL schools have lost sizeable chunks of their outdoor play space because the
    LA wants to expand on the site. Why? Because they are known to be great places
    for children to learn, both inside and outside the classroom.
    The schools simply readjust (and enhance) their play
    offer to fit the new reduced space, once the building works are finished.
    Size isn’t everything….

  6. bombaybadboy79

    SchoolsImprove more rapid home expansion with little regard for the overall infrastructure of schools/doctors/hospital & other emergency

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