(Outdoor Play and Learning)
Article 31:You have the right to play and rest.
At Cockton Hill Junior School, we have adopted the OPAL (Outdoor Play and Learning) approach for break and lunch times. We believe that all children need opportunities to play which allow them to explore, manipulate and experience the environment around them and value the importance of play. Pupils spend approximately 20% of their time in primary school playing. It is therefore vital that a range of opportunities are carefully planned for to ensure pupils engage in meaningful play. An OPAL approach promotes a more inclusive play environment in which all children can feel comfortable to express themselves.
The OPAL programme rationale is that “… better, 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.”
Within play, we support the development of our school ethos, ‘Being the Best We Can Be’ and our school values:
Our OPAL journey began in February 2022 and we have quickly developed our outdoor environment to enhance play provision, utilising our wonderful school grounds. Pupils access free flow break and lunch times moving between our front yard and back yard to choose their own play. There are a range of zones such as sport, performance, craft, music, reading, games as well as our popular trim trail. Further plans are in place to develop more of our school grounds to ensure there are play opportunities for all types of play.
For further information about how OPAL works at Cockton Hill Junior School, please see our Play Policy.
What our school community thinks:
“I like it now we have hoops and activities so we aren’t bored any more. We can go to dance, go in the craft area or play cricket.” Jaxon
“I like that we can dress up and dance while singing songs with all of the other year groups.” Farrah
“I like how we have the new grass around the trim trail now so we can use it all the time.” Amelia
“I like how we have changed it up so we have different areas we can play in. My favourite is the trim trail.” Benny
“I think it is good because before OPAL we used to change yards every half term and we used to get bored of this but now we can go where we want. I like litter picking because I feel like I’m doing my bit for the environment. I also like the craft zone because I usually have ideas about things to make and now I don’t have to wait until I get home to make things.” Lucy
“I like the reading area because I enjoy reading and like to go in there when the weather isn’t great. There are lots of books to choose from.” Ella
“OPAL has transformed our break and lunch time provision. Opportunities have been developed for all pupils and engagement in active play has increased. Pupils are developing social skills alongside development of gross and fine motor, teamwork, cooperation, problem solving and resilience. Children talk passionately about their time outside and we can also see the positive impact on the return to the classroom. Children are ready to learn and confidence is growing to communicate with others. We are excited to see the future when this is the impact OPAL has had in such a short space of time.” Miss Legge – Assistant Head Teacher and OPAL Lead
“It is lovely to see that children’s ‘play’ is being made high priority across the school. It is such a positive move to actively support children to develop play.” Mrs Stobbs – Governor
“It’s great to see the children having so much fun at break times. I especially like the group dances in the performance section and have been known to join in on occasion! I also like the way they play together and support each other now they are all together again.” Mrs Alderson – Teacher
“I feel so proud that the children have such a wide range of play now compared to previous social times. It’s wonderful to see the children running around (using much more of our wonderful grounds) than they’ve been able to previously. The children are thoroughly enjoying playing with other children from different classes and year groups. The activities they have available are enjoyable and there is such a wide range that there is something for everyone to enjoy. I am excited to keep developing and improving our OPAL play provision.” Mrs Lockey – Teaching Assistant and Member of OPAL Team
“Children are not only more active now at playtimes but are also improving life skills like cooperation, team work and problem solving. You can see and hear they are more enthusiastic and motivated about playtimes. Children who wouldn’t normally socialise with their peers now do so with ease.” Mrs Wilson – Teaching Assistant