Why do I love OPAL?

Playtime is a whole 20% of the school day, which is one whole day of the week, and as a teacher I know the difference a good play or lunch time makes to my next lesson!

And this is why I love OPAL – committed to making playtimes outstanding.  The fact that they work in many outstanding schools says it all.

But you don’t need to be outstanding, and nor should you wait to be, before getting them in.

Why?  Well here’s what I think.

1) 20% of your school day

I know I’ve said it but this fact really hit me.  That’s one whole day of school time.  That’s a lot. If you think about it, in the average English primary school of 263 pupils, over seven years those children will spend almost half a million hours outside playing! Why wouldn’t you want it to be as good a time as possible for the betterment of their learning, health, development and behaviour?

2) Children’s right to good play

We’re almost at the bottom of the table internationally for our dire record on children’s play and the UK government got told off just the other day by the UN about their lack of action on improving children’s access to play, and their lack of a strategy to improve this sorry situation.

I know you don’t need convincing on this, but with everything else you need to think about it can be lower down the list.  Or often I find people aren’t sure how they can increase play quality but don’t have the budget.  Which brings me to…

3)  Simple and effective solutions that don’t cost the earth

You can significantly increase play across the school for as little as £4000. That gets you the full OPAL training programme and with it comes a ton of ideas for improving playtimes within your existing time and staff resources.

4) It can actually decrease the number of people you need on the playground

And with squeezed budgets and stretched resources this can only be a good thing! We all have a habit of trying to fill time with staff-led activities so that children don’t get bored but it’s just not necessary when the play environment is so rich that every child is fully engaged for the entire playtime. By all means have someone running sports sessions for those pupils who want them but don’t think you need staff every five yards. With the right training and guidance, a small handful of up-skilled playtime supervisors (don’t call them Playworkers unless they have the NVQ) can easily manage 500 pupils.

5) It’s backed by research, for example;

“The more time that children spent in less-structured activities, the better their self-directed executive functioning,” says a report from the University of Colorado. “Play creates the pathways necessary for learning and connects the neurons in the pre-frontal cortex”, says a report from the University of Lethbridge, Canada, and “the more varied the experiences children gain from their play, the more capacity they create within their brain” says new research from the University of California.

6) It improves learning

Ofsted is being really positive about the impact of OPAL on personal development, welfare and behaviour, rating them as Outstanding in a number of recently assessed OPAL schools.

Most OPAL schools report that previous problems settling pupils down after playtime disputes have completely gone away, adding anything between ten and thirty minutes extra teaching time for each class to the day. What’s that worth?

Also, bullying drops and attendance increases, which have got to be good news for any school!

7) It will make your heart sing

I know this sounds a bit ‘airy’ but really it will.  And I can prove it.  Watch this video of great play at Beacon Rise School (and their head is up for Headteacher of the year:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ii0bYllSWxA&feature=em-subs_digest)

I’ve been putting lots of heads I know in touch with OPAL and I can’t speak highly enough of them.

If you’d like a complimentary meeting with OPAL you can request one by emailing neil@outdoorplayandlearning.org.uk or calling Neil on 07714417191