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Children in British primary schools spend 20% or 1.4 years of their school attendance in play and yet many schools have no strategic or values-based approach to play across all ages.

The Outdoor Play and Learning (OPAL) Primary Programme is a mentor supported school improvement programme. It addresses all of the areas schools must plan for if they want to strategically and sustainably improve the quality of their play opportunities.

The OPAL Primary Programme is the only programme of its kind that has been independently proven to sustainably improve the quality of play in British primary schools.

Research shows that play contributes to children’s physical and emotional health, well-being, approach to learning and enjoyment of school. Given the importance of play in children’s lives and current concerns about children’s health and opportunity to access time and space to initiate their own play outdoors, there are considerable benefits for children, parents, school and the wider community from participating in OPAL's programme.

Fun playtimes lead to improved:

  • Behaviour – happy children don’t cause nearly as much trouble as bored children

  • Accidents – OPAL schools have up to 80% less reported accidents

  • Staff well-being – Supervising happier children leads to happier staff

  • SLT time – senior leaders report dramatic reduction in the time they spend on resolving play conflicts

  • Teachers – consistently report more teaching time in afternoon lessons

  • Self-regulation – children in OPAL schools learn to self regulate through practice, trust and freedom

  • Physical activity – all children, including girls, SEN and non-sporty children are significantly more active

  • Mental well-being – Research shows OPAL children are happier and self-reporting improved mental health

  • Social and emotional development – Good play in the laboratory of life where relationships are practiced

  • Links to formal learning – Many OPAL schools report increased creativity, imagination and collaborative skills

  • Attendance – children can’t wait to come to OPAL schools because they have such fun

  • Parents – we all want our children to be happy. Well informed parents at OPAL schools love it that their children are happier

  • Rights – Play is a child’s right as recognised by the UN Convention on the rights of the Child

To find out more about OPAL please visit their website:

Outdoor Play and Learning

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