Our school has started a programme to improve opportunities for physical activity, socialisation, co-operation, coordination, resilience, creativity, imagination and enjoyment through improved play. The Outdoor Play and Learning (OPAL) Programme is a mentor supported school improvement programme which aims to address all of the areas schools must plan for if they want to strategically and sustainably improve the quality of their play opportunities.
The OPAL Outdoor Play and Learning Programme is the result of 17 years testing and development in over 250 schools and is now used in Canada 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.
OPAL schools often see improvements in the following areas:
Behaviour – happy children don’t cause nearly as much trouble as bored children
Accidents – OPAL schools have up to 80% less reported accidents
Staff well-being – Supervising happier children leads to happier staff
SLT time – senior leaders report dramatic reduction in the time they spend on resolving play conflicts
Teachers – consistently report more teaching time in afternoon lessons
Self-regulation – children in OPAL schools learn to self-regulate through practice, trust and freedom
Physical activity – all children, including girls, SEN and non-sporty children are significantly more active
Mental well-being – Research shows OPAL children are happier and self-reporting improved mental health
Social and emotional development – Good play in the laboratory of life where relationships are practiced
Links to formal learning – Many OPAL schools report increased creativity, imagination and collaborative skills
Attendance – children can’t wait to come to OPAL schools because they have such fun
Parents – we all want our children to be happy. Well informed parents at OPAL schools love it that their children are happier
Rights – Play is a child’s right as recognised by the UN Convention on the rights of the Child
It is based on the idea that as well as learning through good teaching, your children also learn when they play. We believe that play time should be used as an opportunity for learning in the real world. One reason the school is carrying out this programme is that childhood has changed and many children no longer get their play need 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 students which participate in the OPAL Programme. They usually include: more enjoyment of school, less teaching time lost to disputes between children, less accidents and greatly improved behaviour.
As we introduce OPAL in to our student’s curriculums we will require your support to ensure students make the most of this brilliant opportunity. We urge students to go out and explore year round which will mean being outside on hot summer days and wet and rainy days. To do this we may ask for your support in providing suitable clothing and spare clothes during the winter months. If you have any questions or wish to discuss this further please read through the information on the OPAL website or contact us directly.
OPAL website: https://outdoorplayandlearning.org.uk/
Here is an example of an OPAL school: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cm7IfAEsjqI