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Outdoor Play and Learning (OPAL)

OPAL is a school improvement programme addressing all the key areas schools must consider to improve the quality of playtimes

OPAL is a comprehensive, structured strategic school improvement programme for elementary/primary schools across the world. It provides 8 detailed training sessions spread over 18 months. They enable any school to transform its entire culture around play, to ensure that every child has an amazing playtime everyday! OPAL operates in more than 500 schools in the UK, Canada, France and Poland.


Information on this page is provided by the innovator and has not been evaluated by HundrED.






Target group
May 2019
"With rising obesity trends nationwide and young people found to becoming increasingly more sedentary, OPAL has ensured that all pupils buck the trend through play."

About the innovation

The OPAL Programme

Imagine a world without testing for primary school children. Would they still be able to thrive? Would they still develop social skills, resilience or strong and healthy bodies? Would they still be driven by their innate curiosity to find out about the world around them and their part in it? Now imagine a world where children were deprived of play and ask the same questions.

Research shows that play contributes to children’s physical and emotional health, wellbeing, approach to learning and enjoyment of school. In fact, everything that can be claimed by sport as being beneficial to children applies equally to play, except that enjoyment and engagement is at (or very close to) 100% during ‘high-quality’, active playtimes.

Every child loves to play!

Outcomes include an 80% improvement in lunchtime behaviour incidents as well as fewer accidents, increased pupil happiness, more parent satisfaction and greater physical activity for more than an hour every day


Six benefits of OPAL playtimes 1. Better physical and mental health Enjoyment is the single biggest factor in motivating children to be active (Sport England, March 2019). However, many children feel alienated by organised sports activities. OPAL is addressing the childhood inactivity crisis by making playtimes fun, active and inclusive. 2. Happier children Play is a fundamental human need and legally a human right. Children and staff at OPAL schools report feeling less stressed, happier, more confident and more excited about school. Improving playtimes is one of the easiest, most natural and most effective ways schools can support children’s mental health. 3. More teaching time Brilliant playtimes allow children to let off steam. Most OPAL schools report at least ten minutes more teaching time per teacher, with happier, more creative and well-exercised children who settle back into the classroom much more quickly. 4. Improved behaviour In most schools the objective for playtimes is just to get through them without too many fights, quarrels and accidents. OPAL schools report up to an 80% decrease in use of behaviour policies and a 90% drop in senior leadership time spent resolving playtime issues. 5. Faster core skills development Play is not only fun; it is critical to children’s development. Children at OPAL schools rapidly develop improved creativity, imagination, cooperation, resilience, stamina, literacy and confidence. 6. Inclusion OPAL's approach makes play better for every child, every day... no exceptions! We address the dominance of boys and footballs so that sports and play function harmoniously, meeting the activity needs of every child whatever their age, both genders. In our own research last year, supposedly ‘hard to reach’ Y5 & Y6 girls were found to be just as ‘moderately to vigorously active’ for 60+ mins each day as all other pupils are! The OPAL programme has had as much success in special needs schools as it has in mainstream.
Opal 21
Amazing Primary Playtime at St Michael's OPAL Platinum School
What is Outdoor Play and Learning (OPAL)?
West Lodge Primary Proving OPAL Platinum Standard Play

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