Major investment for outdoor play and learning in special schools

Date published: 14 September 2021

Special schools are set to benefit from an £800,000 investment for outdoor play and learning support.

The funding will support the delivery of high quality creative and innovative play and learning experiences for all children and young people in special schools. 

Education Minister, Michelle McIlveen announced the new programme at Longstone Special School in Dundonald.

She said:

“The Covid-19 pandemic has significantly disrupted the education of our special school pupils and has impacted on their learning, communication and mental health.

“This significant investment of £800,000 will enable special schools to encourage and promote physical play and provide additional support in these important areas.”

Developed in consultation with school leaders and representatives of the education sector, the programme is designed to increase opportunities for physical play and to support the social and behavioural development of pupils.

The Minister continued:

“This Outdoor Play and Learning Programme will be rolled out to all 39 special schools.

“It represents an important opportunity to make a real difference in the lives of our most vulnerable children and young people who have been the most affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Notes to editors: 

  1. Information on the programme can be found at: Outdoor Spaces for Play & Learning Programme in Special Schools | Department of Education (
  2. Developed in consultation with school leaders and representatives of the education sector, the programme builds on significant engagement with the Special Schools Strategic Leadership Group throughout the COVID-19 period. It is a response to the identified area of need in special schools, relating to increasing opportunities for physical play to support social, emotional and behavioural development of pupils as school returns for the new academic year.
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