Outdoor Play and Learning (OPAL)
At St Mary’s Primary School, we are committed to embedding our values of ‘Enjoy, Explore, Excel together; be amazing!’ within all aspects of school life - including play. We recognise that play is integral to a happy and healthy childhood and we are therefore committed to providing high quality play.
Children spend up to 20% (1.4 years) of their time in school at play. This is a significant portion of their school life and is an opportunity to continue their learning. Better play means that children enjoy school more, are happier to come to school and have an overall improved attitude towards school. This can benefit children’s general behaviour, increasing the time available within the school day for learning and engagement within the classroom.
Our school believes that all children need opportunities to play which allow them to explore, manipulate, experience and affect their environment. The school acknowledges the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, especially Article 31, and fully supports the child’s right to play. We believe play provision should be welcoming and accessible to every child, irrespective of gender, sexual orientation, economic or social circumstances, ethnic or cultural background or origin, or individual abilities.
What is OPAL?
OPAL is an award-winning, mentor supported school improvement programme that addresses all the areas that schools must plan for if they want to strategically and sustainably improve the quality of their play opportunities. OPAL is the only programme of its kind that has been independently proven to sustainably improve the quality of play in British primary schools.
Its success comes from a series of interrelated actions undertaken with specialist support from an OPAL mentor. This embeds play into the school’s policies and practices and establishes clear guiding principles and strategies for initiating lasting changes at playtimes.
The OPAL programme rationale is that …”better, more active and creative playtimes can mean happier and healthier children, and having happier, healthier, more active children usually results in a more positive attitude to learning in school, with more effective classroom lessons, less staff time spent resolving unnecessary behavioural problems, fewer playtime accidents, happier staff and a healthier attitude to life”.
Play opportunities at St Mary's
The Opal play projects allows children to have access to many areas across the school including: Wildtopia, climbing frames in both the ks1 and ks2 playground, the sand pit, the scrapstore playpod, the mud kitchen, the trim trail, digging areas, wooded den areas and a small world space. These areas encourage the children to explore, be creative, build resilience and have fun!
KS2 climbing frame
KS1 climbing frame
The Trim trail
The Scrapstore Playpod
The small world area
The mud kitchen