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Prettygate Schools

Opening the gate to success


OPAL - Outdoor Play and Learning








The Outdoor Play and Learning (OPAL) Primary Programme is the result of over 20 years of testing and development in over 800 schools and has been used in Spain, Canada, France and New Zealand. The programme has also been adapted and used in schools in Slovakia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Austria under the Play Friendly Schools project. In 2018, OPAL won first prize in an EU-funded award for the best active school’s programme in Europe and two UK national playwork awards. In 2019, OPAL was awarded a quarter of a million pounds by Sport England to bring the programme to many more schools.


OPAL is based on the idea that, as well as learning through good teaching, your children also learn when they play. As 20% of their time in school is playtime, we want to make sure that this amount of time (equivalent to 1.4 years of primary school) is as good as possible.


One reason the school is carrying out this programme is that childhood has changed, and many children no longer get their play needs met out of school:


● Average screen time per day is six hours.

● Average outdoor play time per week is five hours.

● Percentage of UK children who only play outdoors with other children at school is 56%.


There are many proven benefits for schools that carry out the OPAL Primary Programme. They usually include: more enjoyment of school, less teaching time lost to disputes between children, fewer accidents and greatly improved behaviour.


Play is not messing about. It is the process evolution has come up with to enable children to learn all of the things that cannot be taught, while also having so much fun. There are certain things children must have in order to be able to play. These include:


● Having clothes that they can play in.

● Having things to play with.

● Having a certain amount of freedom.


As the school improves play opportunities for your children, you will find that we are asking you for resources and that we are making changes about how the children use the school grounds. The children will begin to use more of the grounds, for more of the year. Your children may get a bit messier, be exposed to more challenges and have greater freedoms to play where, with whom and how they like. The experiences the school is fostering are essential for children’s physical and mental wellbeing and are in line with all current good practice advice on health and safety, wellbeing and development.


The school is being supported by OPAL as part of an 18-month programme and there will be an opportunity to come and talk to our OPAL mentor. If you would like to learn more about the OPAL Primary Programme, please have a look at the OPAL website (, where you will find lots of useful information and several videos about the programme.


What has been added to lunchtimes so far?

  • Mixing infant and junior children
  • Small world play (dinosaurs, cars, animals and Lego)
  • Music
  • Bubbles
  • Chalk
  • Gymnastics mats
  • Water play

All this has been added to complement the already available loose parts, large open spaces and sports equipment.

What’s coming next?

We have a long list of exciting additional play opportunities planned over the next year to 18 months, including:

  • A large digging area
  • A ‘beach’ and smaller sand play area
  • Low ropes
  • Tyre swings
  • Further small world play areas
  • A large messy kitchen
  • Further enhancements to our water play area
  • Scooters
  • Access to the wider school site
  • Arts and crafts
  • No wet play – children outside whatever the weather


Thank you!

A huge thank you to everyone who has donated items – big or small – as part of our weekly appeals. Please keep those donations coming in!