26 February 2022

Image of OPAL (outdoor play and learning) playtimes are here

Our children are over the moon about our new outdoor learning playtimes which we are developing in response to a call from our Pupil Parliament to improve our lunchtimes and in conjunction with OPAL: OPAL website

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.  

Our hopes for OPAL (and these are already happening even though it's only just started):

  • Behaviour - we are seeing big reductions in having to deal with behaviour problems at lunchtimes because the children are too busy finding new things to do and too excited about what is happening (and when they do fall out they are learning how to get on and get it sorted appropriately)
  • Engaged learning (research shows that children who are outside more tend to be more focused when they are back in class)
  • Curriculum links to PE, Science, DT and English (one group of children built robots linked to the class novel they had been reading in class)
  • Accidents - OPAL schools have up to 80% less reported accidents and although we can never get rid of accidents we have found over the last week less accidents at lunchtime since introducing OPAL
  • Self-regulation - children in OPAL schools learn to self regulate through practice, trust and freedom (managing their emotions and managing their relationships which helps with their social and emotional development
  • Physical activity - all children are significantly more active and we've definitely seen this with children developing their fundamental skills, running and travelling a lot more and engaging with non-stop activities.
  • Mental well-being - children are smiling and happier at lunchtimes and being outside for more of the time really improves their mental well-being (especially when they are amongst nature and sometimes in the mud)
  • Risk - children learn how to manage risk when being more adventurous which is a key skill for life (and we support them to make those safe choices in their play where necessary)

MUD! One of the big challenges is that this change in mind-set about playtimes does involve changing our ideas about how dirty children get at school!  

We need to accept that our climate brings a lot of rain and mud and in order for our children to enjoy being outside, they will at times get muddy!  

We are asking parents to send their children to school with a spare set of clothes and a pair of wellies they can leave in school.  

We are also asking for your patience if your child comes home muddy, although we are continuing to help the children to not deliberately coat themselves in mud because we know this creates more work at home. It is a learning curve for us all and we are seeking to get as many suits and spare clothes as we can (and praying for sun!)

However, try to remember that if they come home dirty, they have most likely had a LOT of fun and their learning has been enhanced by the power of play! 

We are so grateful to those parents who are contributing to the children's fun lunchtimes by bringing in equipment or making contact with local businesses.

Please keep an eye open for the OPAL newsletter and we will be awarding the Golden Welly to children who show great social skills or do something amazing at lunchtimes

Thank you to everyone for making this happen and I am excited to see how it will develop over the next few weeks.


Posted by Mike Mitchell