By Ellise Hollie Hayward, 21, Disabilities Correspondent, Jill Dando News
An incredible £400,000 all-inclusive play area that allows children of all abilities to play side-by-side has opened.
Located in Castle Batch in Worle, around a mile from Jill Dando’s childhood home in Somerset, the play area has been developed to provide a safe and accessible space for families to enjoy free of charge.
The new play area fills a significant gap in the area as there is currently no park in Weston-super-Mare suitable for people with special educational needs and disabilities SEND.
The Castle Batch play area is open to everyone, regardless of need. It features a wheelchair swing, a roundabout fit for all and a zip wire.
There are over 100,000 people in the very fast growing town of Weston-super-Mare, where Jill Dando News was created at her former school of Worle Community School Academy to find and publish good news such as this around the world.
The new play park is a short walk from Castle Batch Primary School Academy and Priory Community School Academy, also both part of The Priory Learning Trust with Jill Dando News centres.
Deputy Town Clerk Sarah Pears said: “It’s amazing, it is one of the bigger parks in Weston and it really is a flagship for the whole of north Somerset, because there is nothing like it in the district.
“It is colourful, it is bright, it has been designed with SEND tones.
“It will appeal to so many people, not only children with SEND, but their families… it is inclusive to all.”
With thanks to the funding from Weston Town Council, National Lottery Community Fund, North Somerset Council, NSC Improving Play Spaces Fund, Big Worle and Tesco, the play area is designed to cater to the needs of children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).
Jill Dando News now has trained up hundreds of young reporters aged 8 to 18 to find and publish good news across the world. Worle to the World was their initial slogan in 2017. They have interviewed a Prime Minister in Downing Street and hundreds more people.
According to data published in 2022 by North Somerset Parent Carers Working Together CIC, there are 65 primary schools and 11 secondary schools in the North Somerset area, all of which have SEND provision.
Furthermore, 2.9% of the school’s population had ‘education, health and care’ (EHC) plans of SEND, and 12% have SEND supports, equating to 4828 children in formal education in North Somerset.
It is estimated to have a significantly higher number of potential users, as reported by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) in 2020, with an estimated 4125 children aged 0-17 in the Worle area.
The new play area fills a significant gap in the area as there is currently no park in Weston-super-Mare suitable for people with SEND.
Some of the comments, received from the councils consultation process were:
“This would make a huge difference to local children. At present the only accessible park is a long drive away which isn’t always practical. It is important for all children to exercise in a fun way but children with additional needs, some of them can’t manage physically or emotionally to play team games such as football or tennis have few safe fun places to help them to improve their mobility and self-confidence.”
In January of this year the BBC’s Newsround published an article on a research report for Scope (who campaign for equality for disabled people) released in May 2022.
Stating that they found almost half of families with SEND children (49%) feel their local playground is not accessible. More than 31,000 people have signed a petition from the charity calling on the UK government to support accessible play.
One in seven parents said they could not enjoy the playground as a family because siblings could not play together, which echo’s the Town Councils own research.