School’s green is now educational paradise

Asda's Lynn Hyett and Sophie Lees with pupils from Padnell Infant School, Matilda Tribe, Thomas Neal and Jake Keynes, all five.  Picture: Allan Hutchings (121077-227)
Asda's Lynn Hyett and Sophie Lees with pupils from Padnell Infant School, Matilda Tribe, Thomas Neal and Jake Keynes, all five. Picture: Allan Hutchings (121077-227)
Dr John Steadman, archivist of Portsmouth History Centre based at Portsmouth Central Library     Picture:  Malcolm Wells

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A stunning community effort to create a stimulating outdoor learning experience at a Cowplain school has added the finishing touches thanks to a generous cheque from a friendly superstore.

Lynn Hyett, former community colleague at Asda Havant, proudly handed over the £11,000 cheque to Padnell Infants whose green – known as Joey’s Field – has been transformed into an educational paradise.

Over the last two years, the vast 1.5-acre nature reserve has been furnished with an outdoor classroom, a nature trail, a pond and a willow dome, costing roughly £70,000 – mostly raised through the school’s parent teacher association.

Mrs Hyett, who formed close ties with the school 18 months ago, applied to the Asda Foundation for some money – which came just in time to fit the outdoor classroom with toilets.

She says: ‘When I got the phone call to say the school had been awarded £11,000 I was ecstatic.

‘The Joey’s Field project is phenomenal, and it is of huge value to the community as a whole.’

Currently Brownies, Scouts, a children’s centre, nursery and pre-school use the grounds of the accredited Forest School, which is rich with wildlife.

Pupils at Padnell spend half a day each week in the field.

Layna Thundercliffe, four, says: ‘When I go out it’s like I’m walking into a forest, it’s very exciting.

‘The other day we sat on a circle of logs and made hot chocolate and drank it.

‘We also go pond dipping, feed the birds and look for butterflies.

‘The other day I made a spider web out of string and then went out into the field to see them for real.’

She adds: ‘We all feel so lucky to have Joey’s Field and it’s lovely that we can share it with other schools.

‘Every week it gets better and better, and more things are added to it. It’s very special.’

Michelle Petzer, headteacher, says: ‘The money from Asda is absolutely fantastic.

‘The classroom has changed the way we work – and now as it is fitted with toilets the children don’t have to keep running back into the main school building.

‘We’re fortunate to have such a rich outdoor environment. The children can explore nature, they can take risks and build up resilience in a safe environment.

‘The project has really come together for the whole community.’