Outdoor Play & Learning


Outdoor Play & Learning

In September 2022 we started our OPAL journey. OPAL stands for Outdoor Play and Learning and is a mentor supported school improvement programme to help us improve the quality of play. Since then OPAL has become a huge part of daily school life at St Mary’s. More creative playtimes means happier and healthier children leading to fewer playtime accidents and a reduction in the time staff spend resolving unnecessary arguments.

Why did we decide to change our approach to play?

  • To make the most of our wonderful school grounds and to use them all year round
  • To provide a wider range of choice for the children and to make lunchtime much more fun
  • To reduce the number of arguments and accidents
  • To try and entice the boys to play something other than football which is the biggest cause of arguments and accidents

What other benefits have we found?

  • Improved communication and negotiation
  • Child-led risk assessment and decision making
  • Improved creativity and problem solving
  • Creative play helps children regulate their emotions
  • Improved gross motor skills
  • Improved social interactions

The children are involved in the decision making around play and take part in regular assemblies to discuss and agree our Play Charter. All equipment is part of our risk benefit process and the children are taught to risk assess for themselves. Although there is much more freedom than a traditional lunchtime it is not a ‘free for all, there are rules to help the children keep themselves and others safe. As all the grounds are in use there is a higher level of supervision and all staff have received play worker training.

We have only just started our OPAL journey and have plans to continue to develop the grounds over the next couple of years. This is definitely only the beginning!

Please have a look at our Play Policy, Play Charter and Risk Benefit documents and get in touch if you have any questions.