North East Connected

New canopy opens up outdoor learning opportunities for schoolchildren in Sedgefield

Children at a primary school in Sedgefield will have access to a play area in all weathers for the first time, thanks to the fundraising efforts of parents and teachers.  In a project that was led by the Sedgefield Primary School Parents, Teachers and Friends Association (PTFA), a purpose built, freestanding canopy has been attached to the building that houses the school’s nursery and reception children.  The result is a permanent outdoor play area that can be used all year round, and which will encourage and enable learning outside the classroom.

Sedgefield Primary School opened its new nursery in September 2017, but since its launch, the capacity for staff to offer outdoor learning to children in the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS – nursery and reception classes) has often been hampered by bad weather.  With support from teachers at the school, Sedgefield Primary School PTFA launched an initiative to develop a solution.  The PTFA worked with suppliers to develop a canopy design that would work in the specific context of the school building, and which avoided the need for supporting pillars, ensuring that the area is as safe as possible, while also maximising the space available for activities.

The PTFA also embarked on a campaign to finance the project and as well as holding a series of fundraising events, succeeded in securing vital support from Durham County Council’s East Durham Rural Area Action Partnership (AAP), Durham county councillors David Brown and John Robinson, the Sedgefield Co-op Community Fund and HSBC.  The new canopy has now been completed, allowing up to 60 children who attend the nursery to benefit from a continuous play space that extends from the classroom into the outside world.

Elsa Smith, reception teacher and EYFS lead at Sedgefield Primary School Nursery, comments: “We know that outdoor play supports cognitive development, so the new canopy is going to make a really positive difference to our early years teaching.  Using this addition to the school will improve pupils’ alertness, awareness and attention, and increase their capacity for knowledge and recall, enabling them to better co-ordinate their thoughts and actions, and improving their creativity and academic skills.  In short, it’s going to be a brilliant asset to the school and we’re really grateful to the PTFA, AAP, Sedgefield Co-op and everyone else who made it possible.”

Aileen Darnton, chair of Sedgefield Primary School PTFA adds: “This has been a big project for the PTFA and a massive team effort that has involved a lot of individuals and organisations.  We’re really delighted with the result – it’s going to benefit a lot of children for years to come.  Thank you to our generous funders and to everyone else who supported us and helped ensure that our vision became a reality.”

Jane Bellis, AAP co-ordinator, comments: “It was a pleasure to visit the school and meet the staff and some of the children who are benefitting from this project.  The area looks great, and we’re happy that the funds provided by East Durham Rural Corridor AAP and county councillors will support the children’s development.”

To find out more about Sedgefield Primary School, visit or email

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