In April 2023, we began an initiative called OPAL (Outdoor Play and Learning) to improve playtime opportunities for all our children. Children in British primary schools spend 20% or 1.4 years in play yet many schools have no strategic approach to play for all ages. OPAL is a mentor-supported school improvement programme. It addresses all the areas schools must plan for if they want to strategically and sustainably improve the quality of their play opportunities.
The OPAL Primary Programme rationale is that more active, creative and purposeful playtimes means happier and healthier children. 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 is defined as a process that is intrinsically motivated, directed and freely chosen by the child. Play has its own value and provides its own purpose. It may or may not involve equipment or other people.
At Neston Primary, we believe play has many benefits, including:
● Play is critical to children’s health and wellbeing, and essential for their physical, emotional, social, spiritual and intellectual development.
● Play enables children to explore the physical and social environment, as well as different concepts and ideas.
● Play enhances children’s self-esteem and their understanding of others through freely chosen social interactions, within peer groups, with individuals, and within groups of different ages, abilities, interests, genders, ethnicities and cultures.
● Play requires ongoing communication and negotiation skills, enabling children to develop a balance between their right to act freely and their responsibilities to others.
● Play enables children to experience a wide range of emotions and develop their ability to cope with these, including sadness and happiness, rejection and acceptance, frustration and achievement, boredom and fascination, fear and confidence.
● Play encourages self-confidence and the ability to make choices, problem solve and to be creative.
● Play maintains children’s openness to learning, develops their capabilities and allows them to push the boundaries of what they can achieve.