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OPAL – Outdoor Play and Learning


Children spend 20% of their time at school playing. With this in mind, we have engaged with the OPAL Primary Programme (Outside Play and Learning) to support us in promoting freedom for children to explore play in their own imaginative ways, using found and gathered resources in the natural outdoor environment.


We are lucky to have fantastic grounds for our children to play in but they are significantly underused, particularly in the winter /spring months when the field becomes inaccessible due to being very wet, and due to the fact that a lot of the play was orientated around sport, due to the resources on offer, rather than creative play.


An OPAL approach promotes a more inclusive play environment in which all children can feel comfortable expressing themselves. Our OPAL journey began in Spring 2022 and following a term of planning and then carrying out building work we will be ready to introduce the first phase of OPAL to our children in April 2022. 


We have started to transform our outdoor environment and think of new and interesting ways children can access all of the grounds. Our children are very excited about the new outdoor opportunities that OPAL offers with so much more for them to do, no matter the weather! From playing with tyres and planks, digging in the sandpit, riding scooters or balance bikes, playing with a wide range of loose parts, enjoying imaginative play in the small world area, or cooking up a storm in the mud kitchen, OPAL offers an exciting alternative to the standard playground activities.


Through this approach to play children are not only more active at lunchtimes, but they are also having the opportunity to further develop life skills such as cooperation, teamwork and problem solving. They are becoming motivated and enthusiastic builders, engineers, explorers and designers.


We asked our children and families what skills they consider to be developed through play. 

  • Happiness, Freedom, Adventure

  • We forged strong friendship groups. 

  • We had a love for the outdoors

  • Made new friends while playing

  • New skills and experiences

  • Improved mindset, 

  • Exploring through play and using imagination, feeling trusted with things

  • Fine and gross motor skills

  • Social skills and interactions

  • Negotiating skills, learning to share and take turns

  • Compromise and sharing - teamwork and communication skills

  • Freedom and Independence, Resilience and confidence

  • Turn-taking, patience, and realising not everyone can win

  • Fitness levels

  • Imagination


We also asked families If the school could improve the play opportunities they offer, what types of things would they like to see and why?


We had a huge amount of amazing suggestions for this question. We have listed a sample of them below. 


  • More opportunities for exploratory play

  • More activities like den making which kids can learn to work in a group

  • Freedom to explore the grounds of the school, and take part in varied activities like gardening, orienteering, bird watching, big spotting, etc.

  • Longer playtimes

  • More team building equipment 

  • Better surfaces on the playground and better areas generally

  • More time spent outdoors with specifically designed activities

  • More opportunities for sport, exploratory play and dance.

  • Opportunity to play different sports, 

  • Play together across the year groups, 

  • More freedom to explore, to climb trees, and access more of the school grounds

  • More risk-taking adventurous play 

  • Use of bikes, scooters. Something to attract all ages

  • Climbing, building dens

  • All ages playing together

Our surveys and feedback from our children and families will help us to build an OPAL experience which is unique to Burnopfield Primary school. 

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