“I was fortunate enough to observe the captivating outdoor learning environment at the OPAL Platinum Award winning North Walsham Junior, Infant School and Nursery during my nephew’s sports day this summer.
The visit, with my daughter, highlighted to me how disengaging the outdoor environment is at her own junior school just a few miles away. With the staff seemingly opposed to facilitating the wonderfulness of the great outdoors, the children at my daughter’s school have only a large, square Tarmac patch to play on during the winter months. Primitive and rote methods of play such as balls and hoops are periodically offered but little else, resulting in a lot of aimless drifting or just sitting on cold ground for the entirety of lunchtime. The summer time offers a slight improvement, when the field is opened for the children to play on, however no sand pit or mud kitchen, tractor tyres or tunnelled mounds are available, unlike at my nephew’s school.
After completing a degree in Childhood studies I was aware about the well documented importance and benefits of a stimulating outdoor learning environment to the development of children. Despite this, it is as a parent that I feel most concerned and driven to want to make improvements at my daughters’ school.
My daughter learns best from exploration, visual experiences, trial and error; she finds ‘learning by rote’ frustrating, disengaging and upsetting. I know my daughter would benefit from a learning environment similar to the one that OPAL helped develop at North Walsham.
At playtime an excellent outdoor area supported by positive, knowledgeable staff is immensely therapeutic to children, but the same environment is also extremely cross-curricular and educational, especially for those children who find classroom-based learning difficult.
Fortunately, my daughter’s junior school is both enthusiastic and agreeable about wanting to develop the outside play environment, however after recently embarking on a new leadership team and becoming a federation the matter was understandably not an immediate priority, so it probably took a parent like me to highlight this matter again.
OPAL was simply the obvious choice for me, after first-hand observing how children, and my child especially, utilised the diverse environment developed by them at North Walsham.” L. Wade, Norfolk