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Levelling the playing field

The benefits of playing sports and being outside are well-documented for children of all ages. Having the right pitch to play on is key these days, and Heretaunga Intermediate wanted to offer increased opportunities to its local community.

So they approached Eastern and Central Community Trust for help with funding to put a 1224 m2 all-weather artificial sports turf on school grounds. As a rapidly-growing decile one school, they try to offer as many opportunities as possible to take part in sports and activities, but it’s much easier for everyone if they can do that on site, instead of having to travel to other venues.

“Our hockey teams were playing on the concrete spaces usually reserved for basketball and netball, or on the grass, which isn’t conducive to the flat, smooth rolling surface needed for hockey,” says Principal Michael Sisam.

“Our access to all-weather turfs at other schools depended on when they were available – often at inconvenient times – and meant we had to travel to use them. Having a designated space meant we could have uninterrupted hockey practices, as well as letting our classes use the turf for sports and PE sessions during the week.”

It’s not just the Heretaunga Intermediate students who benefit. The students at Kowhai School and nearby Camberley School and Camberley Kindergarten also have use of the turf, and as word gets around, Michael is expecting more community groups to start booking in practice sessions.

“For the Kowhai School students, having a safe, enclosed area that is smooth enables everyone to access outdoor physical education – particularly those in wheelchairs. By adapting the activities everyone can get involved in sports in some way,” Michael says.

Teeing up the contractors to put the pitch in place turned out to be quicker than expected. “We were lucky that the stars aligned and people had the right-sized gaps in their schedules to be able to fit us in. The pitch was started in mid-February and finished by the end of April so we were able to use it for the start of the winter sports season.”

The total project cost came in at just under $150,000, and ECCT gave a grant of $30,000 towards those costs. “We were also fortunate that the funding we needed also came together in such a short space of time,” he says.

Located at the Lowe Street end of the school premises, next to the fitness circuit, the fully-enclosed pitch has a hockey goal, netball goal posts, and all the markings needed for those games. Since the turf went in, involvement in school sports and physical education has increased, and the school is seeing some great results for both the school and the wider community.

“Other than seeing our hockey players train at school, the turf is well used by the students at break times, freeing up congestion on other school resources on the grounds. Staff are maximising their use of the turf for PE and sport sessions because of the all-weather surface and the contained area, making it a more enjoyable experience for all,” says Michael.