Schoolchildren in Southampton have been given top marks in the ‘Grounds for Optimism’ (GfO) competition.

Pupils from Testwood Sports College with their trophy.

The scheme is organised by the Solent Centre for Architecture + Design and received professional support form Hampshire County Council, Learning Through Artas-ua.infos and the LI, with funding from SEEDA, Yorkshire Forward and the Arts Council. Its aim is to inspire fresh thinking about school grounds to help schools recognise what a priceless asset they can be.

More than 100 schools took part in the competition, with six schools reaching the Dragons’ Den-style final where the students had to present their proposals to the judging panel, chaired by LI president Neil Williamson.

Testwood Sports College eventually won the Gold Award for their proposals for an open-air classroom that included a quiet area overseen by a statue of Buddha for religious studies, a theatrical space for al-fresco drama studies and moveable seats for class group learning. Hounsdown School’s scheme to revive their school entrance area, meanwhile, captured the Green Award for its emphasis on biodiversity, maintenance and choice of materials and planting.

It is hoped that the competition will go nationwide next year. Neil Williamson, said: “What excites me is that it draws together environmental design thinking and education, putting students firmly in the driving seat and enabling them to develop their skills with advice and guidance from landscape professionals. GfO absolutely deserves to go national and I shall be doing everything I can to encourage it.”

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