More than 14,000 B.C. students will soon have access to new, safe and accessible playgrounds as the Province doubles its annual investment in the Playground Equipment Program (PEP).
This increase will help schools design playgrounds that better support accessibility for all students.
“We cannot underestimate the vital link between play and learning. Students are more focused in class when outdoor play is part of their school routine, and they learn important life skills like co-operation and patience while improving their major motor skills,” said Jennifer Whiteside, Minister of Education. “Doubling our playground fund investment helps support students, staff, families and communities, and takes the fundraising burden off parents so they can spend more time playing with their children.”
This year, the PEP will invest $10 million in 60 new playgrounds in 50 school districts throughout the province. The funding for 2021-22 received a one-time $5-million boost compared to previous years. The funding for each project has also been increased by $40,000 to a total of $165,000 to better support accessible components – like ground cover, ramps and/or transfer platforms that connect to the play structure - to ensure a place for all students to play. Playgrounds will be built over the next year.
Since 2018, government has invested $25 million in the PEP to fund 201 new playgrounds, benefiting more than 49,000 students. This new funding builds on government’s commitment to provide safe learning environments for all students during the pandemic and in years to come, which has included the creation of outdoor classrooms in some districts.
Playgrounds encourage physical activity and healthy lifestyles while also encouraging children to share. They are a key factor in children’s development and learning as they help them develop conflict resolution skills and overcome challenges. Playing outside is also known to help reduce anxiety, improve focus and enhance student attention spans.
Every B.C. school district has now received at least one new playground through the PEP. The program relieves parents of some of the responsibility for fundraising for playground equipment and provides access to communities that do not have the fundraising capacity to buy the playground equipment students need.
School districts have the opportunity to apply for PEP funding from the ministry each year. Playgrounds are funded based on greatest need. Priority is given to schools where there is no playground at all, then to schools where the existing playground is aging. School districts that did not receive funding this year may reapply next year.
Henry Yao, Richmond South Centre MLA –
“Playing is essential to everyone’s mental and physical health. Children need accessible, safe and fun places to play on their school grounds and within their communities. We all need unstructured play to sharpen our social skills and to thrive. Our government’s $10-million investment in playgrounds this year will provide more opportunities for kids to go outside and be active, all within steps of their classrooms and close to their home.”
Kelly Greene, Richmond-Steveston MLA –
“We know that outdoor physical activity for children is an important part of their development. It’s exciting that more than 14,000 young students in B.C. will soon have better access to new playgrounds where they can play, build friendships and create more adventures. For our Grauer community, this means a place where children and families can play and grow together.”
Andrea Sinclair, president, BC Confederation of Parent Advisory Councils –
“Parents are truly appreciative of the Playground Equipment Program, which relieves some of the burden placed upon parent advisory council parents who would have had little choice but to spend copious hours fundraising. All playgrounds must have accessible and inclusive equipment for children to enjoy. For many schools in our province, this means having to upgrade or even replace aging playground structures. Parents strongly believe that accessible programs or structures should never be dependent on the individual school’s ability to fundraise.”
Sandra Nixon, board chair, Richmond School District (SD 38) –
“We are extremely pleased that the ministry has been providing the Richmond school district with the funds to deliver accessible playgrounds to our students and families. Playgrounds are wonderful learning environments where students can be free to use their imagination, share experiences and build lifelong friendships. These inclusive spaces are important to our district and provide our students with the opportunity to learn, grow and play.”
Sidney Chan, parent, Grauer Elementary –
"I was very happy when I found out that Grauer Elementary was receiving funding from the Ministry of Education for a new playground. I was happy because it meant that my son and his friends would have wonderful new equipment to play with. Little did I know how immensely transformative the new playground would be for the Grauer community. During this process, I have realized that we have something special, something that brings joy to the Grauer community, and something that we can be proud of.”
- This playground investment is a part of government’s school capital plan to ensure students have safe, positive learning and play spaces, no matter where they live.
- Budget 2021 includes a record $3.5 billion for new and improved schools for B.C. students.
- Since September 2017, the Province has announced more than $2 billion for school capital projects. This includes $749 million to add more than 13,000 new student seats in B.C. schools, eliminating the equivalent of about 520 portables.
The Playground Equipment Program:
The BC Centre for Disease Control has information for schools and families on COVID-19 safety at playgrounds:
A backgrounder follows.