Research shows that children’s mental and physical health is getting worse and that great play can make it better. During seven years at primary school, children spend 1.4 years at play. With this in mind, we have developed our lunchtime play provision to follow the Outdoor Play and Learning philosophy (OPAL).

OPAL is an award-winning, mentor supported school improvement programme that addresses all the areas that schools must plan for if they want to strategically and sustainably improve the quality of their play opportunities. OPAL is the only programme of its kind that has been independently proven to sustainably improve the quality of play in British primary schools.  Through our OPAL provision, we help meet children’s fundamental needs and as a result, have many more children who are happy and engaged and very few problems with behaviour during play. 

At James Oglethorpe we believe that play teaches children all of the things that need to be learnt but cannot be taught. There are clearly lots of benefits to children from having lots of great play, but the good news is that there are also many benefits for our school too.

  • Self-regulation – children learn to self regulate through practice, trust and freedom
  • Inclusive Physical activity – all children, including girls, SEN and non-sporty children are significantly more active. Our play provision is inclusive and ensures all children have access to engaging activities regardless of their needs or background
  • Mental well-being – Research shows OPAL children are happier and self-reporting improved mental health
  • Social and emotional development – Good play in the laboratory of life where relationships are practised
  • Links to formal learning – Since introducing OPAL, teachers report increased creativity, imagination and collaborative skills
  • Attendance – Children can’t wait to come to our schools because they have such fun during lessons and outside at play
  • Parents – We all want our children to be happy. Our existing parents love it that their children are happier, and have enjoyable. Well-managed break times. 
  • Rights – Play is a child’s right as recognised by the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child
  • Risk – Our teachers report significant improvements in children’s ability to identify and manage risk during play
  • Staff well-being – Supervising happier children leads to happier staff, who teach better lessons
  • SLT time – senior leaders report a dramatic reduction in the time they spend on resolving play conflicts, and more time spent with positively with pupils 
  • Teachers – consistently report more teaching time in afternoon lessons, as our children come in happy and ready to learn

JOPS – OPAL in action

Changing our outdoor space to the OPAL way of life is a 2 year plan and a huge focus for our school. Here are some of the zones set up already.

Meet the team

Miss Northwood

Mrs McCann

Mrs McBride

OPAL Ambassadors

Our OPAL ambassadors volunteer for the role and help out at lunchtime . They ensure that zones are kept safe and tidy and assist the Midday Assistants with promoting positive play at lunchtime. They have a variety of responsibilities such as assisting pupils with how to access opal zones safely, encouraging pupils to build friendships, setting up of equipment, managing the transitions from play into the dinner hall, whilst always modelling exemplary behaviour.

Infant Opal Ambassadors
Junior Opal Ambassadors


Since we started OPAL in 2022 we have been giving our pupils a rich choice of play experiences. Pupils are now more prepared for post lunch learning and have lots of opportunities to experience social and solo play of their own choosing. In addition to this, we have seen the start of an incremental decrease in some year groups of associated playtime incidences.