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Outdoor Play and Learning (OPAL)

We believe play and learning go hand-in-hand. Playtime takes up 20% of a child’s school day and provides opportunities for children to learn all the things that cannot be taught: socialisation, co-operation, coordination, resilience, creativity, imagination and negotiation. That is why we have been striving to improve our play offer at Ivydale.  Since 2018 one of our key priorities has been to improve the quality of playground provision to allow children to play actively, creatively and inclusively.

In 2018 we signed up to the OPAL programme. OPAL has grown rapidly since its origins ten years ago and is widely used both in the UK and further afield.  OPAL believes that “more active and creative playtimes can mean happier and healthier children, and 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."

In 2019 Ofsted graded Personal Development, Behaviour and Welfare as outstanding and highlighted that pupils had ‘direct influence on the school’s expectations for behaviour … they create and monitor their own ‘playground charter’.’

We hold a weekly Play Assembly to involve children in recognising and celebrating their approach to play.

Since starting the OPAL programme, we have:

  • delivered INSET for the whole staff team

  • produced and worked through a detailed action plan

  • agreed a policy for Play

  • established a Play Steering Group

  • written Play into our curriculum planning

  • resourced and adapted the Phase 1 playground at Bellwood

  • started developing the EYFS and Phase 2 playgrounds

  • sought parental involvement in developing the grounds

  • applied for funding to collect and store resources

  • developed the role of a Play Leader

  • empowered the Play Team (lunchtime supervisors)

  • created open ended opportunities for children at playtime

  • provided the children with enriching, exciting, fulfilling and varied playtimes, that all children can access and enjoy, including children with additional needs