OPAL (Outdoor Play and Learning)
We are very excited to announce a new project that will be taking place over the next 18 months. 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 a number of European countries and 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 overall time in school is play (break & lunchtimes), 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 Putteridge Primary is carrying out this programme is that childhood has changed, and many children no longer have their play needs met outside of school. National statistics show the following:
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%
We also have recognised the amount of play children have missed out on because of national lockdowns and the restrictions that have been implemented due to COVID. This has had an impact on children’s social skills, and we feel as a school we need to support children to develop these further.
There are many proven benefits for schools who carry out the OPAL Programme and these usually include: greater enjoyment of school, less teaching time lost to disputes between children, fewer accidents and greatly improved playground behaviour.
Play is not messing about. It is the process evolution has come up with to enable children to learn all 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 and having a certain amount of freedom.
As Putteridge Primary improves play opportunities for your children, you may find that we are asking you for resources as we make changes about how the children use the school grounds. We 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. The experiences we will be fostering 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.
The school 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.
You will be able to learn all about OPAL and watch several videos about the programme on the website. You will also be invited to come to a talk to find out more about why play is so important and why your child’s school is seeking to improve it. We will organise events in the coming 18 months when you can come and see for yourselves what is happening and join in too.