OPAL (Outdoor Play and Learning)

Curriculum Intent

The intent of implementing the OPAL program at Saint Joseph’s Catholic Academy is to create an engaging and inclusive outdoor play provision that supports children’s physical, emotional, social, and cognitive development. The OPAL approach recognises that play is an essential part of children’s learning and provides them with opportunities for exploration, creativity, problem-solving, and risk-taking, while fostering resilience, collaboration, and independence.

Curriculum Implementation

1. Vision and Leadership

The school’s leadership team, in collaboration with staff, parents, and children, establishes a clear vision and understanding of the benefits of OPAL. They ensure that the OPAL approach aligns with the school’s curriculum goals and values, and allocate resources accordingly.

2. Training and Professional Development

Staff members receive appropriate training and professional development to understand the principles and practices of OPAL. This enables them to facilitate and scaffold children’s play experiences effectively, ensuring a safe and supportive environment.

3. Play Environment and Resources

The school ensures the availability of a well-designed, natural, and dynamic outdoor play environment that supports a wide range of play opportunities. The outdoor area is equipped with loose parts, such as crates, tyres, and planks, to encourage imaginative and open-ended play. The school also provides age-appropriate resources, including sensory materials, tools, and equipment, to promote exploration and learning.

4. Playtime Structure and Timetabling

OPAL encourages the integration of longer, uninterrupted play periods within the school day. The timetable allows for substantial blocks of time dedicated to outdoor play, providing children with the freedom to immerse themselves in various play experiences, rather than being constrained by tightly structured activities.

5. Positive Play Ethos

The school fosters a positive play ethos by promoting the value of play, celebrating children’s choices and achievements, and encouraging positive interactions, communication, and conflict resolution among peers. Staff members act as role models, actively engaging in play, and providing support and guidance when needed.

6. Risk-Benefit Assessment

OPAL embraces a balanced approach to risk-taking. The school ensures that appropriate risk-benefit assessments are conducted, providing children with opportunities to encounter manageable risks that contribute to their physical and emotional development. Staff members are trained to observe and respond to potential risks, ensuring children’s safety while promoting resilience and decision-making.

7. Partnerships with Parents and Carers

The school actively engages parents and carers in understanding the importance of play and the OPAL approach. They involve parents in the development of the outdoor play provision, seeking their input and feedback. Regular communication is maintained to share the impact of OPAL on children’s learning and development.

8. Assessment and Monitoring

OPAL integrates ongoing formative assessment and monitoring practices to evaluate the impact of the program on children’s learning and development. The school uses a combination of qualitative and quantitative data, including observations, feedback from children, parents, and staff, and assessment of progress against developmental milestones, to inform future improvements.

Curriculum Impact

The implementation of OPAL at Saint Joseph’s Catholic Academy has a significant impact on children’s development and educational outcomes. It creates positive learning experiences that lead to:

1. Holistic Development

Children develop physically, emotionally, socially, and cognitively through their engagement in high-quality play experiences. They enhance their motor skills, resilience, problem-solving abilities, creativity, and critical thinking, leading to well-rounded development.

2. Communication and Collaboration Skills

OPAL encourages communication, collaboration, and teamwork among children. They learn to express their ideas, negotiate, share, and cooperate effectively, developing important life skills for future success.

3. Emotional Well-being and Mental Health

The freedom and enjoyment of play in an inclusive and supportive environment promote children’s emotional well-being and positive mental health. It provides opportunities for stress relief, self-expression, and the development of emotional intelligence and self-regulation skills.

4. Engagement and Motivation

Children are highly engaged and motivated to learn through OPAL. They become active participants in their learning journey, develop a love for exploration and discovery, and transfer their positive attitudes towards learning to other areas of their education.

5. Improved Behaviour and Attitudes

By fostering a positive play ethos, OPAL contributes to improved behaviour, attitudes, and respect for others. Children learn self-control, empathy, and conflict-resolution strategies, creating a harmonious and inclusive school community.

6. Enhanced Learning Outcomes

The holistic development and positive attitudes fostered through OPAL lead to improved learning outcomes across the curriculum. Children develop the skills, knowledge, and understanding required to excel academically, contributing to their educational achievements.

7. Parental Engagement and Satisfaction

The involvement of parents and carers in OPAL strengthens the partnership between home and school. They witness the positive impact of play on their children’s development, leading to increased satisfaction, confidence, and engagement with the school community.

Important Documents