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OPAL - Outdoor Play and Learning

We are about to begin a play program aimed at enhancing various aspects of our pupils’ playtime experience, increasing their physical activity, social interaction, teamwork, coordination, perseverance, creativity, imagination, and enjoyment, all through enhancing play.

The Outdoor Play and Learning Programme (OPAL) operates on the principle that children not only learn in classrooms but also through play. With about 20% of school time dedicated to play, equivalent to approximately 1.4 years of primary school, we aim to ensure this time is utilised to its fullest potential.
One of the driving forces behind this initiative is the evolving nature of childhood. Many children nowadays find their play needs unmet outside of school settings. Therefore, we want to provide an environment where these needs are fulfilled and where play becomes a valuable tool for growth and development.

OPAL has found that across the UK:

  • Average screen time per day: 5 hours
  • Average outdoor play time per week: 5 hours
  • Percentage of UK children who only play outdoors with other children at school: 56%

The impact of the pandemic has only compounded this situation, with our children enduring months of limited social interaction and missed opportunities for play.
There are numerous proven advantages for schools implementing the OPAL Programme. These include increased school enjoyment, less teaching time lost due to conflicts amongst children, fewer accidents, and significantly improved behaviour.
Play isn't merely fooling around; it is a vital process designed by evolution to facilitate children's learning of essential skills in an enjoyable manner. There are specific prerequisites children need to engage in play effectively.

These include:

  • Having clothes that you can play in
  • Having things to play with
  • Having a certain amount of freedom

As we improve play opportunities for your children, you may find us asking you for resources. Additionally, we will be implementing changes regarding how the school grounds are utilised, resulting in exciting developments on and around the playground. Your children will encounter more challenges and enjoy greater freedom to play with a variety of equipment in their preferred way. Rest assured, these experiences will be provided in accordance with current best practices concerning health, safety, well-being, and development.
Throughout this process, we will receive support from OPAL for an additional 12 months, and there will be opportunities for you to engage with someone from the OPAL team. If you are interested in learning more about the OPAL Primary Programme, please visit the OPAL website, where you'll find a wealth of information and several videos showcasing OPAL in action.

You will also receive invitations to attend talks where you can learn more about the significance of play and why we are so keen to enhance it. Additionally, there will be events over the next 12 months, where you can witness first hand what's happening and even participate!

We are currently reaching out to local businesses and organisations for further support. Keep an eye out for more details in our newsletters and requests for "loose parts" (you might have already noticed our expanding collection of tyres!).
The experiences we're cultivating are vital for children's physical, mental well-being, and overall health. We are excited to begin our OPAL journey!