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Monday, June 7, 1999 Published at 10:46 GMT 11:46 UK


Weeding out the bullies

Outdoor spaces can help children 'let off steam'

A greener environment in schools can help reduce bullying and make children feel happier, says an education organisation.

At the start of National School Grounds Week, schools have been urged to pay more attention to outdoor spaces and the need for children to have a creative environment in which to play.

An education charity, Learning Through Landscapes, wants to encourage wildlife gardens and conservation areas in place of harsh concrete and windblown playgrounds.

Such a softening of the school environment could help children to relax, said the charity's director, Ken Davies. And he said research showed that bullying and vandalism were reduced when the environment was improved.

"The bottom line is that children are happier when they have stimulating outdoor areas to play in and let off steam, or quieter places to sit and talk," said Mr Davies.

As well as improving behaviour, the charity says that well-maintained outdoor surroundings can provide a therapeutic antidote to the pressure put on children to perform well in exams and tests.

"As the importance of academic achievement is increasingly emphasised in schools and children sit tests at younger ages, we feel it's increasingly important to create interesting, well-maintained outdoor environments and play areas in which children can relax," said Mr Davies.

While the National Curriculum addressed the formal aspects of learning, Mr Davies said that a more stimulating environment could support the "emotional intelligence" of children, helping them to feel better about themselves.

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