KS 1 & 2 Learning Environments

The environment is one of the most critical factors in supporting children to develop their learning, their relationships and their independence. The shared and specialist learning environments across the school support these aims and provide motivating and stimulating opportunities for children to develop and generalise skills in all areas of their development. Staff carefully consider how they make use of them so that all children can access the different spaces in ways that support their individual learning profiles and priorities.

Children at Willow Dene benefit from a range of carefully planned and designed specialist learning environments.

Our swimming pool operates at a water temperature of 32⁰ and provides a range of ways to enter the water, including hoisted beds and slings, a state of the art PoolPod, poolside access and a unique stair case. We use a range of floatation aids to support children to be independent, confident and safe in the water. Find out more on our Swimming page.

We have a range of outdoor play spaces, which provide children with opportunities to experience movement and physical activity in a variety of ways. These include slides, climbing frames, trampolines, swings, roundabouts, a roadway with a range of bikes and trikes, a range of natural and manmade surfaces, and spaces to run and kick balls.

There are three dedicated ball pool and soft play areas that offer lots of opportunities to practice physical skills, coordination, communication and concept-based learning in fun and motivating contexts. Children learn about sharing the space around them and developing relationships with adults and each other through physical games.

The two sensory rooms provide highly reactive and responsive environments to enable children to establish an understanding of cause and effect and allow them to explore and control their surroundings. They are used to motivate children to move independently practising stretching, rolling, crawling, standing, reaching and other movements. We also use the sensory rooms to help children to respond to visual stimulation develop scanning, focusing and tracking skills and develop cause and effect and anticipation.

We have two key-stage specific libraries at Willow Dene school, both of which accommodate a wealth of stimulating and enriching books, suitable for the age-ranges, and specific needs and interests of our children. These shared reading environments also offer access to a range of teaching and learning resources, props and games to support and inspire children to creatively engage with reading. Another exiting reading experience is offered in our interactive library, where children have the opportunity to engage with digital texts through the use of touch-screen technologies, and immerse themselves in the reading experience through the use of our vibrating cushions and atmospheric colour changing lighting.

Our sensory garden enables children to experience the natural world and gives motivating opportunities for exploring, discovering, combining the use of the senses and independent mobility. It also offers an exciting environment with opportunities for social interaction, communication and using technology.

We have four multi-purpose halls that are used for P.E. lessons, practicing mobility skills, eating and social skills at lunchtimes, community sport activities, assemblies, after-school club and celebrations. One of the Foundation Stage halls is set up as an indoor outdoor learning space so that children always have access to a play space with lots of social and physical opportunities.

Our wide, resource-filled corridors provide shared learning spaces for children to access as they transition around the building or for planning learning opportunities. These include a wild-west camp complete with tepees and rocking horse, a musical hub with a variety of tuned and percussion instruments, dark-tent with light up and ultra-violet toys, giant dolls’ houses and ride-on toys, amongst many more.

We have two dedicated sensory circuits which provide children with opportunities to engage in planned programmes to support them to regulate themselves, with a focus on alerting, calming or organising activities, depending on individual need.

The courtyard is a specially designed space for our parents to meet for events, such as our Friday Speakeasy, parent training and social events or just for a chat. It provides comfortable seating, food and drink preparation facilities and an outdoor area for our families to use.