Laleham Gap celebrates sensory play installation

Laleham Gap project opening

This girl’s grandfather had never seen her smile until he saw the photo of her playing on the new equipment in the playground.

A GRAND opening on 3 November marked the installation of £30,000 worth of special, sensory play equipment at Laleham Gap school in Ramsgate. The equipment includes a sensory timber trail and ropewalk, two large bucket swings, two slides and an enclosed trampoline.

Laleham Gap is a school catering for children with autistic spectrum and speech and language disorders. Careful thought has gone into choosing the equipment, which has organising elements to it and gives sensory feedback. From the beginning, the advice from Occupational Therapy and the children themselves has guided the choices.

The journey to get the play equipment in place has been a long one. Primary resource manager Natalie Hewitt-Zarb and other staff had to overcome obstacles including the school move from Margate to its new home in Ozengell Place, difficulties in creating the space needed, and a marathon fundraising effort. The school is overwhelmed by the support given by others in achieving this.

Alongside £10,000 from the Big Lotto fund, they received substantial donations from Wooden Spoon Kent. Giles Hilton, one of Wooden Spoon Kent’s staunchest supporters, cut the ribbon at the opening. Kent Community Foundation also secured significant contributions from two charities – the Albert Burn’s Children’s Trust Fund and Kent Reliance Provident Society Fund. These monies have been topped up by the fundraising from the school’s own summer fairs, one of which was match-funded by Barclays, quiz nights and coin drops at local ASDA and Waitrose stores.

Laleham Gap project opening

Parent Governor with one of the student’s.

Headteacher Les Milton said; “We are delighted by the new equipment. We love how much extra interaction there is between the children, and between staff and the children.”

The children have already tested out the play equipment and their verdict is clear. In a school survey 13% thought the play equipment was “good” and 85% proclaimed it was “amazing.” Some of the children said:

“The trampoline was so wonderful I just couldn’t stop.”

“Going on it makes me feel as happy as a unicorn watching rainbows.”

“I love the bouncy thing because I go so high.”

“I’ve created my own series of routes on the timber trail.”