The Process of Change

Learning through Landscapes has developed a tried and tested project management cycle called the process of change. We hope it will support you through your Polli:Nation project and beyond and should compliment existing planning and review cycles in the school.

The Learning through Landscapes Planning Process

The prospect of re-thinking the way you design, use and manage your school grounds may  be a bit daunting particularly as you not only considering the needs  of the pupils and the community but also you are attempting to provide better habitat for local pollinating species.  However, with a carefully thought out methodical approach, your grounds can: be more pollinator friendly; have better links with the curriculum; be better social spaces benefiting generally from enhancement, and there is the potential for a positive impact upon the overall feel of the site. With a good understanding of a few basic principles, the process can be easily organised into four clear stages designed to help you develop your grounds – not only to benefit your school today, but for many years to come.


Stage 1: Where are we now? This is the stage where you will gather your base-line data. This should include: the baseline OPAL pollinator survey so that we can measure the impact of your habitat works on species; ‘before’ images so that you can demonstrate what you have done when you have made changes; information gathered about how the grounds were used before the changes as well as how people felt about them at the start of the project.

Stage 2: Where do we want to be? This stage of the project focuses on your aims – what you want to achieve – so that at the end of the project this will be an important point of reference.

Stage 3 and 4: How can we get there? /Making the changes

During these stages monitoring takes priority over evaluation – so make sure you keep good records of what you are planning to do.

Once you have completed these four stages look again at Stage 1 Where are we now? This is the time to repeat the information gathering you did at the start of the process so that you can see what impact the work has had. Also, refer to your aims to make sure you are heading in the right direction.

Where are we now?

Even if you only plan to improve one area of your grounds – for now, at least – it is important to start by gaining a thorough understanding of the whole site. This is a crucial strategy for future developments and can help avoid costly mistakes.

This stage of the ‘process of change’ looks at what your grounds currently have to offer, including:


a) How are your grounds currently used for learning and recreation?

b) Which habitat/pollinating species are already present?

Design – What is the existing layout and features of your grounds?

Management – What current policies and practices do you have in place for your grounds?


Firstly, consider developing how you use what you already have as this may be more effective than making further physical changes. There will always be an aspect of provision that can be developed straight away, and small improvements give everyone confidence and motivation to go further. Secondly, you may already be doing some things well in your school grounds. Looking at what your grounds offer now, and how they are currently used will clarify how far you want to go (your vision). (OPAL Survey/take a tour)


The design of your grounds impacts on how they are used and how pupils feel about them – which in turn affects how they behave in them and look after them. Surveying and gathering good information on what your grounds look and feel like and what resources and features they contain will reduce the risk of making inappropriate changes. A review will also help everyone familiarise themselves with the space and start to develop a strong sense of ownership of future developments.


Planning the management of your grounds will be integral to their long term sustainability with policies and clearly considered practices underpinning their success. For example, how well do your aims, values and organisation support the development and use of the school grounds? Review how information about the value of outdoors is shared at present and where there are gaps in policies and procedures relating to outdoors. This will help you to make improvements to all of your school’s paperwork associated with outdoors. As with every other aspect of your developments outdoors it will be important to consult widely about changes to documentation to ensure that it accurately reflects the philosophy of your school and all those involved in it, rather than being a ‘rubber stamping’ exercise that is unlikely to be fully implemented.

The list below will help you gather your thoughts:


  • Do we have a policy about the use and management of our grounds?
  • When was it adopted?
  • Who was involved in the development of it?
  • Does it need reviewing?

Risk assessment 

  • Do we include school grounds in our risk assessments or risk/benefit analysis?
  • When was the last outdoor risk assessment carried out?
  • Have we addressed the issues it identified?
  • Who has responsibility for carrying out risk assessments?


  • Are school grounds included in our annual budget?
  • Do we have a budget for ongoing outdoor maintenance tasks?
  • Do we set aside money for future developments as well as seasonal replenishments?
  • Do we set aside a budget for outdoor clothing for staff and children?

Site management and maintenance 

  • Who undertakes all the different aspects of management and maintenance of the site?
  • How successfully is this being completed? This will help you with the later stages of your project.
  • If you have an external contractor responsible for grounds management tasks, have you reviewed the contract recently to ensure it is being adhered to?


  • Does anyone on the senior management team have a specific responsibility for outdoors?
  • Do job descriptions include an expectation that staff will be outdoors?
  • Do staff interviews include questions about the adult role outdoors?
  • How do we ensure that staff are adequately protected from extreme weather conditions?


  • How do we share ongoing information about outdoors with parents?
  • Do parents value our outdoor space and the opportunities it offers their children?
  • Are parents involved in the care and development of our outdoor space?


  • Is the value, use and management of outdoors stated clearly in our prospectus and newsletters?
  • Do we display photographs of children using the outdoor space?
  • Do we hold events outdoors?


  • How do we include outdoors in our planning and assessment documentation?
  • Do we observe and assess children’s play and learning outdoors?
  • Do we use our observations of children outdoors to inform our future planning?
  • Do we include examples of learning outdoors in children’s assessment records?

Continuous professional development and training 

  • How often does outdoor learning feature in our staff meetings and training days?
  • How often does it feature on individual staff members’ performance reviews or personal training plans?
  • Do staff get access to external conferences or training opportunities on outdoor learning?

Make sure you have a project folder to keep all the information you gather together so it is easy to access as you move through the process of change. Not only will the information you gather now help you head off in the right direction, it will also provide you with your base-line data that will help you establish the impact of your project.

Stage 2 Where would we like to be?/ Vision Statement

At this stage in the process of change, you need to ask ‘what would we like to be able to do in our grounds?’ alongside ‘how can we best help pollinators in our locality’ and not ‘what would we like to be able to have?’

Answering this question will involve thinking about:

Use- how you want to use your grounds

Design – how the layout and features in your grounds can support their use

Management – how through management policies and practices you can support the use and development of your grounds.


Focusing on what experiences you want your pupils to have in your school grounds alongside how you could best support local pollinator populations will help you avoid wasting money on changes or installations that don’t really meet your needs, or prove impractical or inflexible. You may already have plenty of ideas, but don’t know how to go about making the changes. There are a variety of ways in which you can gather the thoughts, ideas and feelings of your pupils and staff, including preparing simple questionnaires, making models of your site (‘Creating Models’ link) and holding discussions and debates (‘Discussion techniques’link). Through this process you will also identify issues and barriers.  Make a note of them – you will have an opportunity to address them later in the process of change.

Aside from improving pollinator biodiversity you will also want to consider more general outcomes, such as helping to improve:

  • concentration in lessons
  • pupils’ sense of responsibility
  • general contentment
  • opportunities to engage every child with learning
  • attainment
  • behaviour
  • motivation
  • attendance rates
  • opportunities for pupils to make a difference to the school
  • opportunities for parents to get involved

Once you have contributions from everyone you will want to put all the ideas into order. Voting activities are an effective way of getting feedback on ideas and suggestions.

It is then useful to develop the collective ideas into a vision statement. This will help ensure everyone in the school community is heading in the same direction. For example your statement may describe the type of experiences you want your children to have but also refer to the habitat you wish to create and the biodiversity you aim to encourage.

There are different ways of writing a vision statement. You could, for example:

Get those leading your project to add key words, phrases or ideas to a ‘vision words’ board and use these words and phrases to feed into the creation of a vision statement for your school grounds project.

Provide participants with a starting point for a vision statement to a help get them started. Starting points might be:

  • our school grounds will be…
  • pupils using our grounds will….
  • wildlife using our grounds will…
  • everyone who visits our grounds will…

Your final vision statement should be available to everyone involved in the project so post it on your website, use it for funding applications but most of all make sure everyone working on the project has access to a copy. This will help keep your project on track and motivate everyone involved.


Having developed your vision statement, you can start to think about how your school grounds will look and feel, and what features and resources it will contain. Even though at this stage you might only have the funds to change a small area of your grounds, a whole site approach – focusing on the overall structure right from the start – will enable you to make changes that work together in the future.

A useful first step is to create a zoning plan. Some of the activities that you want to take place within the grounds will conflict – for example, quiet areas do not live happily next to the football pitch! A zoning plan is an outline plan of your grounds, divided up roughly to show how different activities could take place in different areas. You don’t need to be artistic to do this – and it is a good opportunity to get everyone thinking about the implications of change. You’ll need to consider:

locations for the activities you wish to take place in your grounds.

how the inside and external spaces work together. What is access like to the outside and can this be changed? Could working or playing outside impact on what is happening inside? A space directly outside a classroom could be ideal for teaching outside but a shared courtyard space may mean that one class working outside might disturb others inside.

  • how you can ensure movement around the site works successfully. Refer to previous work on desire-lines in Stage 1 Design. Pathways into and across the site will help to define how the space is divided up.
  • shade and shelter – will there be places that become hot spots in the summer or cold, windy places in the winter?
  • visibility across the site – will you be creating any blind spots and does this matter?

For more information see ‘Creating plans’ in our activity section.

Once you have identified the major zones and are happy with their relationship to each other and the school buildings, you can create a vision plan that will define your vision for the future of the school grounds. This is not a detailed plan and it may well continue to change overtime.  But it will define the shape and sizes of the different spaces and existing or potential uses, users and possible improvements as well as indicating major features – for example large areas of planting, main routes through and access points. For more information see Creating plans’ in our activity section.


How, through management policies and practices, can you support where you would like to be in terms of the use and design of your grounds? Use the information you have collected so far to draw up a prioritised checklist of changes needed to policies, practices and attitudes. Reviewing your management policies and practices will help ensure that everyone with responsibility for resourcing or supervising learning and play in the school grounds understands the long term implications of physical changes. Who do you want to get involved in undertaking the overall management and everyday maintenance of your grounds? Do you want to involve pupils, parents and staff or do you want everything to be done by a contractor or caretaker/janitor? There may, for example, be a significant impact on the cost or complexity of caring for your grounds, and if you are keen to ensure your outdoor space is, within your capacity, low maintenance, you must carefully consider what the impact of your changes will be. To help you, when considering each change/development, think about:

  • replenishment
  • replacement
  • maintenance.


Whatever changes you make to your grounds need to be sustainable and not cost more than you can afford, either in time or money. Make sure at this stage you consider the capacity you have to manage the different aspects of your grounds; whether you are hoping to make physical change or change to the way you are using your grounds.

All of the above constitutes the start of your ‘design brief’. You will be using this to communicate your plans to all users of your grounds, and later to measure your success against it. It will also, if you decide you need professional support, help external professionals – landscape architects and designers understand your requirements. for more information please see‘Developing the design brief’ in our activity section.

Activity: Pupil-led Planning for a School Grounds Event

The essence of this activity is to support pupils to begin to take ownership of their grounds and to help them manage the changes that take place. It is unlikely that the plans generated from this activity will be definitive but it is a valuable exercise in real world learning and pupils are more motivated to care when they have a voice that is heard.  The teams and the tasks can of course be tailored to suit your specific needs but it should provide a good starting point to cover all the logistics of planning and running a successful school grounds development day.

Furthermore this activity could be adapted for the purposes of planning a Grounds Celebration Day. The key difference being that the ‘habitat team’ would become more of an ‘activities team’ and the ‘tools and materials team’ could have more of a financial/budget overview.


  1. List the work that is planned for the Grounds Development Day.
  2. List the tools and materials (except for plants, seeds, shrubs and trees) that we will need for each task. (Speak to the habitat team)
  3. Write a letter asking for donations of tools and other suitable materials that can be part of the school newsletter
  4. Look at the prices for materials needed
  5. Measure the areas and volumes that will be needed to get a more accurate price.


  1.  List the areas where we will be doing habitat work on the Grounds Development Day.
  2.  Make a table showing each area and the features that you would like to put in.
Area Feature
Eco garden Orchard – 5 x apple trees

Bug hotel

Look and record the prices for the living materials. (Speak to the tools and & materials team about the prices for other features

Write a letter to invite the Grounds Maintenance Manager in to discuss your ideas including the possibility of leaving some grass to grow long.


  1. Decide the timing of the Grounds Development Day and what food and drink you would like to provide. (think about how you would provide hot food or drinks and whether you need shelter and seats)
  2. What support do you need to arrange this food and drink?
    Make a list of people you would like to invite and estimate the number of people who will attend on the day.
  3. Create an invitation to the Grounds Development day
    Write a press release to invite the local press (using our press release guidance notes)


  1. List all the features that you can think of that may be a risk on the Grounds Development Day (think about tools, hot drinks, bad weather)
  2. For each of these hazards write down the following information: Feature, The risks, The benefits of this feature, How can we control the risks?
  3. Prepare a timetable of activities for the day (speaking to the events team and habitat team to find out what needs to happen)
  4. Make a list of all the jobs that will need to happen on the day and ideas for who may cover these tasks. (For example you may need group leaders for the different practical
Feature The risks The benefits of this feature How can we control the risks?

Prepare a timetable of activities for the day (speaking to the events team and habitat team to find out what needs to happen)

Make a list of all the jobs that will need to happen on the day and ideas for who may cover these tasks. (For example you may need group leaders for the different practical activities – speak to the habitat team and you will need a food and drink team – speak to the events team to get an idea how many.)



Making the changes

Use the case studies on this site along with the how to activities to support you in making your changes. You may find the Learning through Landscapes Making the Changes Membership resource useful information too.

Celebrate your success

Many schools are working on physical improvement programmes in their school grounds, and these can often be lengthy and time consuming. Whilst working on a development project, or when a phase of work has been completed, make sure you celebrate your achievements.

Consider the following:

Involving the media:

  • Head to social media with the good news and illustrative images
  • Create a web page which showcases your grounds

Inviting People in:

  • Plan a launch event (‘Pupil-led Planning’), inviting local MPs, environmental organisations, parents, supporters and other members of the community.
  • Plan a grounds tour – perhaps incorporating a series of points of interest and a labelled map
  • Have a picnic in the new grounds
  • Link to other schools in your authority to showcase the changes and share best practice
  • Link the grounds developments to creative arts such as a musical performance, transient art, dances etc.

Recognising the achievements of those involved:

  • A school display showing your progression could be really powerful
  • Create an informative pamphlet, flier or floor book available for anyone who visits the school
  • Ensure that the ethos of the school grounds is shared and supported via appropriate policies and the school handbook.
  • Perhaps you could design a crest and designate yourselves as a certified ‘Polli:Nation Supporting School’ determining an accompanying definition of what that means.
  • Use (‘National School Grounds Week’) as a backdrop to celebrate the work you’ve done, the people who have helped, the importance of caring for the environment and each other.