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Monday, 12 June, 2000, 13:26 GMT 14:26 UK
School grounds relieve pupil stress
A creative environment improves behaviour, says psychologist
School grounds can help to reduce stress among pupils, suggests a survey.

With pupils facing more and more testing, a survey from the charity Learning Through Landscapes claims that two thirds of 7 to 11 year olds find going outside into school grounds a helpful way to relax.

The charity promotes the improvement of playgrounds and open spaces around schools, in the belief that the design of the physical environment can help to influence the atmosphere of school life.

According to Learning Through Landscapes "dramatic improvements in pupil behaviour and attitude, a reduction in bullying, accidents and vandalism, have been shown when school grounds are used and developed in the right way".

'Emotional literacy'

Among the improvements which schools might make would be to plant trees and gradens to "soften" the impression of bare concrete and cement.

Educational psychologist Robert Stratford, from the University of Southampton, said that "outside play is vital to children's social and emotional well being".

"With opportunities for playing outside now limited to around the home, school grounds are increasingly where emotional literacy is developed and anger managed through a stimulating environment."

The survey claimed that 36% of pupils were at their happiest when playing in the school grounds and two thirds of pupils believed that playgrounds were the best places for making friends.

But the survey also revealed a high level of stress, with almost half the pupils experiencing some form of worry.

This week is the charity's National School Grounds Week, sponsored by London Electricity and involving some 7,000 schools throughout the UK.

On Tuesday the English Education Minister Jacqui Smith is endorsing the charity's work to improve school environments with a visit to a primary school in north London.

While the government is supporting the upgrading of playgrounds, there is still an ongoing row over the extent to which they are protecting school playing fields.

Despite ministerial commitment to stopping the redevelopment of sports pitches and open spaces around schools, the National Playing Fields Association has repeatedly complained that sales of playing fields are still going ahead.

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See also:

24 May 00 | Education
Playing fields still disappearing
31 Mar 00 | Education
Yoga to calm pupil stress
12 Oct 98 | Education
Stress testing schoolchildren
04 Aug 99 | Education
All work and no play...
06 Jan 00 | Education
Playing fields sell-out accusation
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