Category Archives: School grounds

Schools grounds: the peculiar status of school grounds (2)

I wrote recently about the peculiar UK notion that school grounds should  be sequestered, fenced or walled enclaves effectively unavailable for easy use by the school’s local community.  The fact that school grounds are sometimes used for planned and organised ‘community’ events does nothing to weaken the points I sought to make.

Particularly in areas where general park or open space is limited, this barricading against wider community use seems particularly ill-judged.  Other countries manage things differently, Sweden for one, and parts – I do not have full information – of the USA, certainly.

Photos by Sharon Danks, Bay Tree Design

Photos by Sharon Danks, Bay Tree Design

I happen to be  in Berkeley, California, at the moment, and here some school at least have a more open policy.   The pictures are of the signs at the boundaries marking the dividing line between school and park;  park and street.  The park section is used by the school during school time, and is open to the wider community at all other times.  It takes but a minute’s thought to appreciate that the ‘rest of  the time’, is quite substantial: after school, weekends, school holidays.

RosieParksParksidephoto

The signs raise questions, for example, why is the park closed when kids are in school time? ‘Stranger danger’, I hear you say. Well, perhaps that’s a valid reason. Or perhaps that reason is freighted with assumptions that it is time to challenge.  But that is not the point of this short piece.  My aim is simply to share with you the signs, and what they bespeak. 

Grounds for concern: the peculiar status of school grounds

Places apart?

Key landholdings effectively divorced from their surroundings?

Sites of containment and control?

Not perhaps the conventional way to describe school grounds, but perhaps useful imagery to jolt us out of assumptions which, in the UK at least, seem so embedded and habitual that we cease to see what is before our eyes and within our daily experience.

I want to speak about school grounds – also called school playgrounds – and the way, in the UK at least, these landholdings are effectively sequestered sites, their backs turned to the local community and neighbourhood  their boundaries marked by fence, wall and bolted gate.  Although appearing on maps, our internalised local mental geographies effectively blank-out school grounds classifying them as prohibited or semi-prohibited places, achieving by ourselves what state-instructed cartographers achieve when they omit sensitive military sites from everyday maps: the erasure of place. Continue reading