Getting our kids outdoors
01/02/2011 By Stuart Lester, Dr Owain Jones, Wendy Russell - National Children's Bureau

Supporting school improvement through play

An evaluation of South Gloucestershire’s Outdoor Play and Learning Programme

‘I have been in education for 15 years, and by a long way this is the most successful and rewarding project I have ever been involved with.’
(Headteacher, School S interview)

The Outdoor Play and Learning (OPAL) Programme provides mentored support to help schools create the best conditions for play in primary schools. Between 2007 and 2011 OPAL has been trialled in over 60 schools in South Gloucestershire, Bristol, Wiltshire and North Somerset. The Programme was developed while I was working as a school advisor within the Learning and School Effectiveness Service in South Gloucestershire’s Council’s Department for Children, building on my experience as a teacher and playworker.

For individual schools the OPAL Programme comprises over six days of meetings spread over one year. The process starts with a structured audit carried out by the mentor and the school together. The audit covers 18 critical cultural and environmental conditions which affect the quality of children’s play. This is followed by an INSET day which informs the whole-school community of the Programme and brings together their agreed values and principles to form a play policy.