OPAL - Outdoor Play and Learning
Update: 6th September 2022
We are about to start a programme to improve opportunities for physical activity, socialisation, co-operation, coordination, resilience, creativity, imagination and enjoyment through improved play.
The OPAL Outdoor Play and Learning Programme is the result of 17 years testing and development in over 500 schools and is now used in Canada, France and New Zealand as well as across the UK. Work has started to adapt the programme for schools in Slovakia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Austria. In 2018 OPAL won first prize in an EU funded award for the best active school’s programme in Europe and two UK national playwork awards.
OPAL is based on the idea that as well as learning through good teaching, your children also learn when they play, and as 20% of their time in school is playtime, we want to make sure that this amount of time (equivalent to 1.4 years of primary school) is as good as possible.
One reason we are carrying out this programme is that childhood has changed, and many children no longer get their play needs met out of school.
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 exacerbated this and our children have missed may months of social interactions and opportunities for play.
There are many proven benefits for schools which carry out the OPAL Programme. They usually include: more enjoyment of school, less teaching time lost to disputes between children, less accidents and greatly improved behaviour.
Play is not messing about. It is the process evolution has come up with to enable children to learn all of the things that cannot be taught, while also feeling like it is fun. There are certain things children must have in order to be able to play. 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 and we will be making changes about how the children use the school grounds. We will be making much more use of our field and you will see some exciting developments on and around the playground. Your children may get a bit messier, be exposed to more challenges and have greater freedoms to play where, with whom and how they like. The experiences will be provided in line with all current good practice advice on health safety, well-being and development.
Throughout this development, we will be supported by OPAL for 18 months and there will be an opportunity to come and talk to someone from OPAL. If you would like to learn more about the OPAL Primary Programme, please have a look at the OPAL website where you will find lots more information and several videos of OPAL in action.
You will also be invited to come to a talk to find out more about why play is so important and why we are seeking to improve it. There will also be opportunities to attend events in the coming 18 months where you can come and see for yourselves what is happening and join in too!
We are very grateful to the work of the PTA which has supported the initial involvement with the OPAL programme. We are currently seeking further support from local businesses and organisations. Watch out for further information in our newsletters and requests for ‘loose parts’ (you may have already seen our growing collection of tyres!)
The experiences we are fostering are essential for children’s physical and mental well-being and health and we can’t wait to get started!