Welcome to

Cockton Hill Junior School

  1. Curriculum
  2. Our Curriculum
  3. Outdoor Play and Learning

Outdoor Play and Learning (OPAL)

“Nature is a tool to get children to experience not just the wider world, but themselves.”  Stephen Moss.

What is OPAL?

OPAL is Outdoor Play and Learning. Play is a freely chosen activity that a child finds satisfying which leads to better, more active and creative playtimes which means happier and healthier children. We are proud to be a Platinum Award OPAL School.

OPAL at Cockton Hill Junior School:

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. 

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 staff team have accessed a range of professional development linked to OPAL to drive our progress in this area.

We have 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 for children to engage in play. We continue to develop these areas with further plans for the future. These zones support engagement in the 16 play types. For further information about how OPAL works at Cockton Hill Junior School, please see our Play Policy and the parent/carer information booklet which is given to all families in their admissions information. 

Parent/Carer Booklet Information:

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 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.” Mrs Lambert – Deputy 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