OPAL – Outdoor Play & Learning
Article 31 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child states that ‘A child has the right to rest and leisure, to engage in play and recreational activities appropriate to the age of the child and to participate freely in cultural life and the arts.’
At Bourne Westfield Primary Academy, we recognise that play is an integral part of a happy and healthy childhood. As a school, we believe in providing consistently high-quality, sustainable play opportunities for all children. These inclusive opportunities in play are achieved by offering carefully considered outdoor spaces, equipment, and toys that offer a rich choice of accessible play experiences for every child. We are firmly committed to using our school vision and Play Policy to guide our planning and actions in providing play opportunities for children. We believe play has a vital role in children’s health, happiness, and well-being. It creates children who are independent, confident, imaginative, adaptable, social, and able to assess risks.
Children spend up to 20% or 1.4 years of their time in school at play. Therefore, this time needs to be coherent and planned for. Changes in society such as heavier traffic, busier lifestyles, fewer areas for play and awareness of risk have led to ‘play deprivation’ for many of today’s children. This makes their play opportunities at school even more essential.
Better-quality play leads to happier children and happier staff. With better-quality play opportunities, there are fewer behaviour problems, a more positive attitude to school and improved skills development and learning. As the children improve their quality of play and have more enriching play times, there are fewer accidents and classroom learning is enhanced as the children come in from play happy and ready to learn.
Our children have access to a wide range of materials, which they can use in their play. These include tyres, crates, wood, fabric, mud, wheeled toys and much more. Through regular play assemblies, they are taught about dynamic risk assessments and playing co-operatively with others.
We follow advice from the Health and Safety Executive, who supports active play in schools.
Since we started our OPAL journey in 2022, our play has begun to transform. Children are now taking ownership of their play, choosing from a huge range of resources, and using them to create their own games. Walk around our playground at any lunchtime and you will see children making dens, climbing, swinging, testing their strength, dancing, dressing up, making mud cakes, playing in role, chasing, jumping, digging, and developing new skills, negotiating with others, and being completely immersed in play. It is truly wonderful!