As part of our School Development Plan for 2022, we are taking part in the OPAL Project in order to revolutionise playtimes and lunchtimes within our school. OPAL is an award-winning school improvement programme designed to support schools improve the quality of their playtimes. The OPAL approach will enable our children to have fun, busy and positive playtimes which reflect the high expectations we have of behaviour within structured learning times within unstructured learning opportunities. To visit the OPAL website, click/tap on the logo. To find out more about OPAL at Horley Infant School, do read more below!
When we consider the amount of time and investment we make into the resourcing, impact and effectiveness of playtimes and lunchtimes, it is important to consider the amount of time that is available during our school week for these times. The OPAL project sees this time as a significant opportunity to improve children’s lives. We all know that the impact of COVID-19 was large and our need to connect with both people and our environment is important now more than ever.
Similarly, childhood trends suggest that:
– childhood obesity is rising
– mental health disorders are rising
– the average screen time for UK children is 6+ hours per day
– UK children have 5 hours per week on average of social outdoor play
These are all reasons why we believe children have the right to access high quality play opportunities. This links in with the UNICEF Article 31 of the United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of Children: Every child has the right to play and rest.
Our OPAL Project and our Play Policy (available within our policies section) detail our school’s commitment to combating these issues and supporting children’s right to play.
When you think back to your own childhood, we bet you have many fond memories of being out and about with friends, making something out of nothing and… dare we say it… managing your own levels of risk…!
OPAL Play is understood to be:
– Freely chosen
– Intrinsically motivated
– Self directed / child led
– The unteachable curriculum
– The way children learn the things that cannot be taught
The benefits of play are far reaching. These include, but are not limited to, strength and endurance, good whole body co-ordination, secure emotional attachment, successful social skills, effective reasoning, secure early language development, strong communication skills, high levels of literacy and numeracy, artistic creativity, strong narrative skills, effective understanding of rules, opportunities for discussion skills and high-quality mental representation.
The two areas related to OPAL that our families are always most concerned about are “Will my child come home caked in mud? and “How do you keep my child safe whilst they are playing?”
It’s important that we think about risk as “the ability to move beyond what is already known and already easily accomplished”. There is a risk when taking on a new job in a new field of expertise, a risk when moving to a new area or when buying a gift for someone you don’t know very well. Resilient learners overcome the risk of failure, pain and uncertainty and it is essential that we provide opportunities for children to develop resilience. This is why resilience is one of our school values and this is why we need to provide opportunities for risk taking behaviour to take place – otherwise we will never move beyond what is already known and easily accomplished!
With regards to muddy clothes, our aim is to provide a welly bank and a specific area for digging, in order to keep mess to a minimum. However, mess is simply an occupational hazard when it comes to being a 4-7 year old in England! If we want the benefits that effective play bring, we may have to accept that children will, at times, get a little muddy but we hope you share our belief that the benefits outweigh the negatives.
Take a look at our OPAL Padlet! This is where we will keep children, parents, staff and the whole school community up to date with all of our hard work regarding OPAL.
We hope you enjoy looking at our progress and our photographs. If you have any suggestions or you are able to support us with any of our aims, please do let us know!
Thevideo below is of St Michael’s school which is an OPAL Platinum School. Our long-term aim is to provide playtimes and lunchtimes which are as amazing as St Michael’s – watch this space!