Outdoor spaces

We see the benefits of creating wonderful outdoor spaces that can be used for both play and learning

Our vision for school grounds was approved by City of Edinburgh Council Education, Children and Families Committee in October 2018 and we would like to share that vision with you.

We believe that good school grounds should be quality places for play and learning, and have links with the community. There should be a diverse provision of all these things at the heart of the design and all of this should be within a safe environment.

Venn diagram showing equal parts of learning, play and community, with diversity in the centre and safety around the three


We think that it is really important to create outdoor spaces that are inclusive and provide many different opportunities for play that suit all children. We also think that the desire for play doesn’t stop when you leave primary school and want to encourage high schools to think about how learners want to use their outdoor spaces.


A school’s grounds is its closest outdoor space to the classroom and should be an inviting place to encourage teachers and learners to use it and be a place that they want to learn in.


There are many ways of creating links with the community and your school grounds. You could open your school grounds out of hours for the community to enjoy. You could take learners out into the local area to access spaces for learning that you don’t have in the school grounds, for example a local pond or stream. You can find community groups that can help create allotments etc. in your school grounds and help look after them.


It’s important to provide a variety of different things and opportunities in your school grounds, think of things that can be used in multiple ways, it’s a good chance for staff and learners to get creative outdoors.


Safety of those who use our school grounds is of paramount importance. We have provided a Playground Development Guidance for schools about making their school grounds safe, detailing risk assessments and inspections.

It also details the process of making changes to your school grounds. An note of interest form is in the appendices where you detail your plan for any changes from adding planters to putting in play equipment. You send your note of interest forms to playgrounds@edinburgh.gov.uk if you have any queries about playgrounds please use this email address.

Further reading

A guide written by Architecture and Design Scotland about The indoor / outdoor experience: A cross authority exploration of key Early Years principles

There are a range of studies that show the benefits of being outdoors in nature, this research paper by UCL Institute of Education shows that 79% of children felt more confident in themselves having spent time participating in outdoor activities.  Children and Nature: A research evaluation for The Wildlife Trusts

An interesting resource for information is the Western Growers Foundation why school gardens

You can check out some of the great online resources here.


If you’re looking for fundraising ideas for improving your school grounds check out this page on funding opportunities.

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