Drake Primary School and Little Pirates Child Care

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Play at Drake

Drake and Little Pirates Play Project

At Drake and Little Pirates we understand the vital importance of play as part of learning and child development for the pupils in our care.  Our site posed a number of fundamental  challenges;

  • not enough space allocated for wet weather play  
  • hard standing around the new school used as a running track with a very narrow path to the infant playground 
  • no shade in the summer
  • no defined outdoor area for Reception classes

We needed to:

  • provide for wet play times, especially with the increase in pupils in upper juniors
  • slow down the flow from around the main school building to allow for different kinds of play as well as running
  • shelter for rain and the fierce sun in hotter months
  • provide a full time outdoor play area for children in Reception classes


In phase 1 of our play project we worked as a school family to understand the needs and importance of play at Drake and Little Pirates. Together with Jess Milne and his team from Design Build UK, we wrote our Play Vision. This shapes how we challenge ourselves to provide this key part of school life for every child.


Next, we undertook a feasibility study and consultation process with children, staff and families to understand how we wanted to develop our grounds.


Children felt that whilst there were plenty of opportunities to run and play sport already in place, time for quiet and other types of play were missing. Following the survey, children and adults voted on their preferred features. The children designed little tower houses and walkways and most exciting-a zip line and giant ship! Children named their Feasibility Study- 'Let us Fly'. 


As part of phase 1, the construction of an outdoor classroom to promote learning outdoors and support teaching and learning in the Forest School area was completed in the summer of 2019. 


In phase 2, we have used the feedback from the initial project to work with the team at Pentagon and designed bespoke structures to closely reflect the children's designs. 


For phase 3, we will resolve the issues on the long field: 

  • poor soil and grass that cannot take the wear and tear from children's play
  • more gardens and growing linked to our allotment projects, science and sustainability
  • continue to increase capacity for 420 children to have a positive play time 




Phase 3 - Landscaping the grounds

Phase 4 - Crinkle Crags Climber - Completed September 2023

Phase 5 - Pond and bog area - Further detail coming soon............

Outcomes to be achieved:

  •  To create a biodiverse habitat that will attract new wildlife, and provide visual tranquility for all that visit and will be fantastic for pupils' wellbeing and provide opportunities for mindfulness.
  •  For children  (420+ pupils across Drake Primary and Little Pirates Child Care) to discover and gain further knowledge on a regular basis - every week, through hands-on experiences (pond dipping, planting, identification of species etc.), to learn about nature and its importance. This will link really well to our curriculum activities and learning objectives across all year groups. Children will also be able to use and learn about the biological diversity of this new feature.
  • To leave a legacy for future children who attend Drake Primary School as well as for the local community. Families of Drake Primary School will be able to plant the trees with their children, which will enable them to watch it grow and develop during their time at Drake.
  • The Princess Catherine Pond Project will bring new life to this area, generating biodiversity and mimicking the natural profile of existing water bodies around Thetford.

This is giving us an opportunity to restore and manage Brecks habitats, using plants that are native to The Brecklands. It could also provide an opportunity to link with the Brecks Pingo ponds for biodiversity enhancing education opportunities.




  • We have a large school field with an area perfect for a pond/bog area due to the surface water that does not soak away.
  • This specific area is fenced off so will be a safe site for the pond.
  • The pond will stay topped up with water using a water tank connected to a down pipe (rainwater) which will have an electric drill pump attached to it when the water is needed for the pond. There is also the possibility that more of these water pumps could be sourced.
  • A shelter will be erected on the pond site to collect rainwater as well (as recommended by Mia Withiam). Mia has kindly offered to send us a design and measurements for this shelter in order to collect enough water - awaiting email.
  • We are in touch with Norfolk Wildlife Trust and have asked them to come in to support us with this project and advise us. They are coming to visit us on the 13th September to provide what support and advice they can.
  • We are in touch with The Brecks:Fen Edge & Rivers Landscape partnership.
  • Mia Witham has also been asked to support with this project


Specifications of a pond - we will link ideas from Mia, Norfolk Wildlife Trust, The Brecks:Fen Edge & Rivers Landscape partnership as well as

  • Needs to be in a sunny area, but needs some shade - too much shade will mean less wildlife.
  • Don’t place pond beneath deciduous trees - too many leaves in the pond will cause water to clog up and cause problems in the winter if the pond freezes,
  • Make sure there are no roots in the area you have dug the pond - they can cause holes in the pond liner.
  • A water fountain makes a lovely feature - the gentle sounds, a grand focal point and also helps to oxygenate the water.
  • A Pebble beach area to a sunny area of your pond will create a tadpole nursery which will provide food and shelter from predators. This will also create a clear shallow area for birds to bathe.
  • A Dragonfly perch (an arching branch pushed into the soil near the edge of the pond.
  • Create log piles near the pond to attract wildlife. One in a shady area and one in a sunny area
  • Stone pile to provide damp nooks and crannies for Amphibians.
  • Wild flower area to encourage pollinating insects.