What is OPAL?
OPAL has won the best active schools’ programme in Europe award and been cited in two Parliamentary Reports as outstanding practice. OPAL is working closely with Sport England to promote more active childhoods.
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 the school is 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 outdoor with other children at school 56%
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 improves play opportunities for your children, you will find that they have more resources outside on the playground and we will be making changes to how the children use the school grounds. They may use more of the grounds, for more of the year. 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.
These experiences the school is creating are essential for children’s physical and mental well-being and healthy and in line with all current good practice advice on health safety, well-being and development.
How you can support us?
To facilitate this project, we will need to buy some new resources, move some things around on the playground and we will also require some loose parts. Loose parts are any materials that can be easily moved, combined, and incorporated into children's free play.
We would like all children to have a pair of wellington boots in school and to bring a coat to school every day so that we can go out in all weathers and use all of our site. If you have any spare wellington boots, we would be grateful of any donations.
We are currently collecting:
- Bikes/balance bikes suitable for primary school children
- Kitchen metal or wooden utensils, pots and pans
There will be more information to follow through the year when you will be invited to come and play with your children.
We are really excited about this project and hope that you will support us in our efforts to improve playtime for all children.
Our OPAL Journey
In September 2022, we started using our whole site for children to play on and separated the area into zones to help organise the different types of play areas. We introduced:
- small world toys,
- dressing up,
- den building,
- a quiet reading area,
- and chalk.
Most of these were kindly donated by our parents.
We started having regular play meetings where all of our staff that go outside can reflect on the play that we are trying to encourage, ask questions, make suggestions and therefore help to further improve the quality of play.
In January 2023, as long as children had wellington boots, they could still use the school field even during the winter months. We began to build our resilience by going outside every day, even if the the weather was wet and windy. We have introduced more equipment outside:
- table tennis,
- a slack line,
- a stage,
- a digging area,
- more art equipment and whiteboards,
- suitcases (for transporting)
- and more balls.
All children now have their lunchtimes at the same time. We have seen many benefits from this with our older children becoming role models and guiding play.