New All-Weather Outdoor Performance and Recreational Facilities

Date Posted: Wednesday 09 September 2020

From the second half of the Michaelmas Term 2020, the whole of the Prep playground will be covered with a weatherproof, steel-framed canopy.  The playground is being resurfaced in a softer, bonded rubber crumb.  In addition, there will be a large all-weather canopy for the Senior Divisions, alongside Walkfares performing arts centre.  The ground in the Senior Divisions’ canopy will be surfaced with high quality artificial grass.

These canopies will create our largest sheltered performance and recreational areas in the School.  The areas covered will collectively be more than twice the size of the Sports Hall. The gardens around these spaces are benefitting from new planting and landscaping, to enhance the setting and beauty of these areas.

These facilities will enable us to reintroduce most of our activities, including sports, dance, performances (including drama, instrumental and choirs) and assemblies.  These activities are not permitted indoors in schools, due to the pandemic risks.  New Hall will be in a unique position to offer this extended, outdoor, all-weather space for education and recreation for the children.

This exciting new development will enhance educational opportunities in our curriculum and co-curriculum.  It will also support our move to a greater amount of outdoor learning and recreation, with proven mental and physical benefits for wellbeing.

These canopies will also prove useful when entering into the colder months, as highlighted by Mr Sidwell, Vice Principal (Boarding & Operations): “The additional large covered outdoor spaces will prove invaluable for evening and weekend activities for our boarders when the weather takes a turn for the worse.”

Mr Meakin, Director of Music, is particularly excited for the learning opportunities these canopies will bring: “Performing in an outdoor space gives musicians a totally different environment in which to perform, both for classical and contemporary genres.  The new covered areas not only give us more open and ventilated spaces to assist with the current climate, but also to expose our students to different acoustics, performance arrangements and audience interaction.  The canopies will also offer our students new opportunities to explore and understand music technology and sound production, and how making music outdoors affects this aspect of a performance.”

Mrs Molina, Head of Dance, expressed her excitement to be able to run more dance classes using these canopies: “As one of the best academic schools for dance in the UK, we are looking forward to using this space for lots of outdoor dance classes allowing the pupils to have more freedom. This will allow dancers to use the environment to inspire creativity and expression through movement.”

Mr Williams, Head of Drama, is keen to explore the dramatic possibilities of these new canopies: “When Shakespeare refers to ‘this most excellent canopy’ in Hamlet Act II Scene II, he may have been referring to the sky or, ironically to the painted canopy over the stage of The Globe Theatre.  We are excited to enable students to perform under our very own excellent canopies, if that becomes a possibility later in the academic year.  The space will create challenges for young dramatists to rise to but will also be an exciting and fun environment in which to bring stories to life in an imaginative way.”

Mrs Minnis, Head of Girls’ & Boys’ Division, also spoke of the opportunities the canopies will bring, “The undercover canopies will provide wonderful outside spaces for our children to enjoy their lunch with their friends and socialise safely within their year group bubbles. It will be wonderful for the children to use them to relax with one another. We have also planned for these spaces to be used as outside learning spaces.”