Children in British primary schools spend 20% or 1.4 years of their school attendance in play and yet many schools have no strategic or values-based approach to play across all ages. The Outdoor Play and Learning (OPAL) Primary Programme is a mentor supported school improvement programme. It addresses all of the areas schools must plan for if they want to strategically and sustainably improve the quality of their play opportunities. The OPAL Primary Programme is the only programme of its kind that has been independently proven to sustainably improve the quality of play in British primary schools.
Research shows that play contributes to children’s physical and emotional health, well-being, approach to learning and enjoyment of school. Given the importance of play in children’s lives and current concerns about children’s health and opportunity to access time and space to initiate their own play outdoors, there are considerable benefits for children, parents, school and the wider community from participating in OPAL’s programme. The OPAL Primary Programme supports schools in developing a cultural shift in thinking about and supporting children’s play. Its success comes from a series of interrelated actions undertaken with the specialist support from the OPAL mentor. This embeds play into school’s policies and practices and establishes clear guiding principles and strategies for initiating changes at playtimes. The results can be transformational and – at best – spectacular and show progress even in more challenging school environments.
Outdoor Play and Learning (OPAL) is a community interest (CIC) company dedicated to providing services to schools and organisations in England and Wales to improve the quality of play opportunities for all children. OPAL staff have expertise in teaching, school improvement, landscape design, project management, play and strategic planning. The OPAL Primary Programme offers schools a structured process, with mentored support provided for up to two years and many resources, to enable schools to permanently change both their environment and their culture to enable provision of amazing playtimes every day.