OPAL – Outdoor Play and Learning
Here at St Swithun School, we are committed to ensuring quality play opportunities are available to all our children. Play is an integral part of the school day and, on average, takes up 20% of a child’s time in school: around 1.4 years of their primary school life!
As schools, we recognise play as a way all children encounter, explore and make sense of the world and their place within it. Therefore, it is our duty to ensure our site, staff and skills optimise the most fulfilling and rich play opportunities possible during breaktimes and lunchtimes. In doing so, we aim to highlight the interconnection between play, learning, development, health and happiness.
Most of our best childhood memories are from playing outdoors, climbing trees and exploring the wide world around us. OPAL gives us the opportunity to give those memories to your children. OPAL (Outdoor Play and Learning) is all about using naturally and man-made resources to allow children to be inspired and creative at playtime.
There are many proven benefits for schools which carry out the OPAL Programme. These include: more enjoyment of school, less teaching time lost to disputes between children, less accidents and greatly improved behaviour. Not only this, but research tells us that children who play outdoors move more, sleep more, eat better, are happier and care about the planet more.
This term has been really exciting for the OPAL initiative. As the children have been getting used to the new resources and different ways of playing, the staff have also been working hard with online Play Essential and Risk Management training. We have introduced many large loose parts into the outside space such as traffic barriers, tyres and wooden pallets which the children have enjoyed building dens and making obstacle courses with.
The site team have built some amazing welly racks that the children have been busy filling up with their wellies. It took a while for the children to adjust to using the school field all year round. Now slowly, with the introduction of new resources to entice them onto the grass, they have now embraced this and use the space really well. As the weather has become wetter, the mud has increased. You are very welcome to send your child with waterproof trousers or suits when the weather is wet.
The children have really enjoyed working out how to keep safe using the new large loose parts during our fortnightly play assembly. We have also been setting challenges in these assemblies such as building an assault course across the field, or finding hidden gems in the sandpit or digging area. The children have responded really well to these and the enthusiasm and results have been incredible.
Year 6 have been amazing in their roles as sports leaders, acting as incredible role models for the other children during tidy up time and helping out with many of the younger children in their play. We will be holding another donation collection week in January. Please see the loose part donation attachment which details items we always welcome. Across the Christmas period, if you have any large boxes, please do drop them off when we reopen in January as the children would love to play with them. Thank you so much to everyone for your donations and support around our OPAL journey. More to come next term!