Beamish Primary School

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OPAL - Outdoor Play & Learning

We are an OPAL PLATINUM school!

OPAL is a huge part of our school day at Beamish Primary School, and both children and staff look forward to getting outside to play, explore and develop together. The Outdoor Play and Learning (OPAL) Programme is focused on improving the quality of play for all children.

In July 2023 we were awarded a Platinum OPAL Quality Award for outstanding play times. The difference it has made is phenomenal. Children are happier, more sociable and resilient. As a result of the freedom and responsibility that comes with OPAL playtime behavioural incidents have dramatically reduced and children return to the classroom ready to learn. We have an abundance of play equipment that has been kindly donated by our community. Children have the opportunity to play on scooters, wheely boards and in our sand pits. They can perform with their friends on the stage using instruments and fancy dress clothes, build dens, look for nature in the tall grass or experiment in the mud kitchen. OPAL has not only improved the opportunities and experiences at break times, it has also had an impact on the children’s creativity, stamina and behaviour within school.

Although we are delighted to have achieved this award, we see this just as the start of the OPAL journey. We have many more ideas to make our play times the best they can be!

What is OPAL?

Research has shown that children spend 20% of their time in school playing. To ensure that this time and our fantastic school grounds are used to their full potential our school has adopted an OPAL (Outdoor Play and Learning) philosophy that allows the children freedom to explore play in their own imaginative ways, often using found and gathered resources in the natural outdoor environment.

An OPAL approach promotes a more inclusive play environment in which all children can feel comfortable to express themselves. Our OPAL journey began in Spring 2017 and since this time, we have quickly transformed our outdoor environment. Our children love the new outdoor opportunities that OPAL offers with so much more for them to do, no matter the weather! From playing with tyres and digging in the sand pit, to enjoying imaginative play in the small world area or cooking up a storm in the mud kitchen, OPAL offers an exciting alternative to the standard playground activities.

Through this approach to play children are not only more active at lunch or break times, but they are also having the opportunity to further develop life skills such as cooperation, team work and problem solving. They are becoming motivated and enthusiastic builders, engineers, explorers and designers.

OPAL after School Club

Following the success of OPAL during lunch and break times, we are now offering an OPAL afterschool club. This is a fantastic opportunity for children to access areas in a smaller group setting to build resilience and confidence. The after school club often work hard at ensuring our areas are up to scratch and support in developing new areas.

OPAL Parents Stay and Play

We recently invited our parents into school to witness our OPAL Play times in action. It was a huge success and both children and adults had an amazing time exploring the school grounds.

What our parents think:

“I think My child’s confidence has grown since OPAL. When we used to go to the park he wouldn’t go on anything.”

“I think this is brilliant, more stuff than I realised was here.”


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