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What is OPAL?


The Outdoor Play and Learning (OPAL) Primary Programme will help us here at St Thomas' to strategically and sustainably improve the quality of our play opportunities to enable all children to have fantastic playtimes.

The OPAL Primary Programme is the only programme of its kind that has been independently proven to sustainably improve the quality of play in British primary schools.


The OPAL Primary Programme supports schools in developing a cultural shift in thinking about and supporting children’s play. 

Why is play so important?

During the last 2 years our pupils have lost out on lots of opportunities for play and cooperation. We have seen an increase in the number of pupils who are finding it difficult to form strong friendships, communicate their thoughts effectively and resolve conflicts when they arise. Through our OPAL play work we aim to significantly impact on these areas.


Incredibly, children in British primary schools spend 20% (the equivalent of 1.4 years) of their time at school in play, so it’s a really important part of the school day. Through their play, all children encounter, explore and make sense of the world and their place within it. Play can improve a child’s:


health and wellbeing

cognitive development

social development

understanding of risk and challenge

resilience and character.


When they are really playing, children will use their entire body and exercise every part of their mind.


The OPAL programme rationale is that “…better, more active and creative playtimes can mean happier and healthier children. 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.”




Our children have really enjoyed using our new Mud Kitchen and Construction areas at the start of the new year! Even our new reception children joined in with the older children.                                     




Our children have enjoyed their first lunchtime using our new music and dressing up equipment as part of our OPAL play. It has been wonderful to see them using the newly painted stage area to perform!





Our children have loved the introduction of our wheeled play area where they have the opportunity to use scooters, trikes and trolleys as a way of enhancing their play times. 



Taking advantage of the snowy weather, we took our OPAL play outside onto the field! All of the children had a fantastic time now that they have their wellies in school so that they can take full advantage of our outdoors.






The children have had the chance to start playing with the larger equipment that we have been collecting for the last few weeks. They have all said how amazing it is to be able to make dens, forts and other things with all of the other children. 



We've started our journey of mixed lunchtimes with some of our new equipment! The children were all fantastic and came up with some amazingly creative ways of using our small world boxes. The feedback that we have received from the children has been overwhelmingly positive so far!




Our children have been introduced to some of our 'Quick Wins' as a way of starting to incorporate active and creative play. They had a fantastic time starting to explore some of our equipment and can't wait to try out some more of the exciting things that we have lined up!




Following on from our first OPAL assembly, we have created our Play Charter which will make sure we all have fantastic playtimes!

Our First Freedom Friday!








We had our first 'Freedom Friday' where we merged the whole school for morning break. The children really enjoyed their breaktime playing in different areas of the school grounds and it gave everyone an insight into how our playtimes are going to improve!

This is what a playtime at St Thomas' could be llike!

Want to find out some more about OPAL?

Visit Home - Outdoor Play And Learning