Meridian Community Primary School & Nursery

  1. About Us
  2. OPAL

OPAL - Outdoor Play & Learning 

Since 2021 we have held the prestigious PLATINUM award which only 1% of OPAL schools have achieved!

OPAL is based on the idea that as well as learning through good teaching, your children also learn when they play, and as 20% of their time in school is playtime, we want to make sure that this amount of time (equivalent to 1.4 years of primary school) is as good as possible.

One reason our school is carrying out the OPAL programme is that childhood has changed, and many children no longer get their play needs met out of school.

There are many proven benefits for schools which carry out the OPAL Programme. They usually include: more enjoyment of school, less teaching time lost to disputes between children, less accidents and greatly improved behaviour. 

The essence of play is that it arises from children’s innate need to express themselves, to explore, learn about and make sense of their world. Its benefits for children derive from them making their own choices, following their own instincts. At play, children have a certain freedom and autonomy from adult direction. This freedom – to choose, to explore, to associate, to create, to move around, to challenge themselves and others – is an important part of their lives now; and vital to their development.

At Meridian Community Primary School and Nursery we recognise that play is an important part of a happy and healthy childhood and as a school we should provide high quality, sustainable play opportunities for all children during their time with us.  These inclusive opportunities in play are achieved by offering carefully considered outdoor spaces that offer a real choice of accessible outdoor play experiences.

We are committed to using OPAL to guide our planning and actions in providing excellent outdoor play opportunities for children.  We believe outdoor play has a vital role in children’s happiness, well-being and mental health. 

Positive outdoor play supports children in the following ways:

  • Playing is fun: it is how children enjoy themselves.


  • Play promotes children’s development, learning, imagination, creativity and independence.


  • Play can help to keep children healthy and active.


  • Play allows children to experience and encounter boundaries, learning to assess and manage risk in their lives; both physical and social.


  • Play helps children to understand the people and places in their lives, learn about their environment and develop their sense of community.


  • Play allows children to find out about themselves, their abilities, their interests and the contribution they can make.


  • Play can be therapeutic. It helps children to deal with difficult or painful circumstances such as emotional stress or medical treatment.


  • Play can be a way of building and maintaining important relationships with friends, carers and family members.


Positive play also supports children in developing our five core values of respect, kindness, responsibility, honesty and strength.  We are continually working with OPAL (Outdoor Play and Learning) to support us in developing a wide range of high-quality outdoor play opportunities at Meridian.

 10 Things Every Parent Should Know about Play

by Laurel Bongiorno

1. Children learn through their play.

Don’t underestimate the value of play. Children learn and develop:

  • cognitive skills – like math and problem solving in a pretend grocery store
  • physical abilities – like balancing blocks and running on the playground
  • new vocabulary – like the words they need to play with toy dinosaurs
  • social skills – like playing together in a pretend car wash
  • literacy skills – like creating a menu for a pretend restaurant

2. Play is healthy.

Play helps children grow strong and healthy. It also counteracts obesity issues facing many children today.

3. Play reduces stress.

Play helps your children grow emotionally. It is joyful and provides an outlet for anxiety and stress.

4. Play is more than meets the eye.

Play is simple and complex.  There are many types of play: symbolic, sociodramatic, functional, and games with rules-–to name just a few. Researchers study play’s many aspects:  how children learn through play, how outdoor play impacts children’s health, the effects of screen time on play, to the need for recess in the school day.

5. Make time for play.

As parents, you are the biggest supporters of your children’s learning. You can make sure they have as much time to play as possible during the day to promote cognitive, language, physical, social, and emotional development.    

6. Play and learning go hand-in-hand.

They are not separate  activities. They are intertwined. Think about them as a science lecture with a lab. Play is the child’s lab.

7. Play outside.

Remember your own outdoor experiences of building forts, playing on the beach, sledding in the winter, or playing with other children in the neighborhood. Make sure your children create outdoor memories too.


8. There’s a lot to learn about play.

There’s a lot written on children and play. Here are some NAEYC articles and books about play. David Elkind’s The Power of Play (Da Capo, 2007 reprint) is also a great resource.

9. Trust your own playful instincts.

Remember as a child how play just came naturally? Give your children time for play and see all that they are capable of when given the opportunity.

10. Play is a child’s context for learning.

Children practice and reinforce their learning in multiple areas during play. It gives them a place and a time for learning that cannot be achieved through completing a worksheet. For example, in playing restaurant, children write and draw menus, set prices, take orders, and  make out checks.  Play provides rich learning opportunities and leads to children’s success and self-esteem.


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