Outdoor Play and Learning

What is OPAL?

Outdoor Play and Learning (OPAL) is a community interest (CIC) company dedicated to providing services to schools and organisations in England and Wales to improve the quality of play opportunities for all children. OPAL staff have expertise in teaching, school improvement, landscape design, project management, play and strategic planning. The OPAL Primary Programme offers schools a structured process, with mentored support provided for up to two years and many resources, to enable schools to permanently change both their environment and their culture to enable provision of amazing playtimes every day.

A message from OPAL

Children in British primary schools spend 20% or 1.4 years of their school attendance in play and yet many schools have no strategic or values-based approach to play across all ages. The Outdoor Play and Learning (OPAL) Primary Programme is a mentor supported school improvement programme. It addresses all of the areas schools must plan for if they want to strategically and sustainably improve the quality of their play opportunities. 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.

Research shows that play contributes to children’s physical and emotional health, well-being, approach to learning and enjoyment of school. Given the importance of play in children’s lives and current concerns about children’s health and opportunity to access time and space to initiate their own play outdoors, there are considerable benefits for children, parents, school and the wider community from participating in OPAL’s programme. The OPAL Primary Programme supports schools in developing a cultural shift in thinking about and supporting children’s play. Its success comes from a series of interrelated actions undertaken with the specialist support from the OPAL mentor. This embeds play into school’s policies and practices and establishes clear guiding principles and strategies for initiating changes at playtimes. The results can be transformational and – at best – spectacular and show progress even in more challenging school environments.

"Children attend primary school for seven years. Of those seven years, around 1.4 years will be spent outside actively playing, making `playtime’ by far the most dominant element within the curriculum. Unlike sport and PE lessons, children’s active play can claim 100% engagement, provided it is delivered with the right expertise, consistency and understanding of children’s social, emotional and environmental needs"

- Outdoor Play and Learning: The OPAL Primary Programme

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What are the benefits of play and OPAL?

More teaching time

Most schools report ten minutes more teaching time per teacher with happier, more creative, and well exercised children who settle to classes much more quickly.

Improved behaviour

OPAL schools report up to 80% decreased in use of behaviour polices and 90% drops in senior leadership time spent in resolving playtime issues

Faster core skills development

Children at OPAL schools rapidly develop creativity, imagination, cooperation, resilience, stamina and confidence.


OPAL's approach makes play better for every child, every day... no exceptions!

Happiness and wellbeing

Play is a human need and a human right. Children and staff at OPAL's schools report feeling less stressed and happier, and more excited about school.