Head Teacher Testimonials
Victoria Park Primary began working with Michael Follett and Outdoor Play and Learning in January 2013. In the eighteen months that followed, we have completely transformed the lunchtime experience and embedded play within the culture of the school.
Michael has been instrumental in this transformation, guiding us through the process and keeping us on track. Using the OPAL audit tool provided a clear structure which enabled us to clearly identify strengths and development points. Michael provided invaluable guidance on a range of areas including staffing, use of equipment and developing policies.
I highly recommend using OPAL to any school seeking to develop play opportunities for their children.
North Walsham Combined Junior and Infant School
“Our two schools had recently federated the previous year because of an adverse Ofsted judgement (requires improvement) for the Junior School and one of the areas identified for improvement was behaviour. The Infant School shares a site with the Junior School and I knew that there was lots of potential in developing the outdoor spaces for play and learning.
As the new Executive Headteacher I thought a shared improvement focus on improving the quality and breadth of children’s play for both schools would help to build relationships between the school staff, develop staff understanding of how pupils learn and I wanted to ensure happy and safe playtimes for all pupils by maximising the use of our extensive grounds.
The complaints from pupils about playtimes before we started our OPAL improvements were most likely to be:
Children being rough, mean, pushing, hurting people, taking over others, not lining up or taking turns with equipment, lack of equipment or access to equipment, others ruining games or chasing others when they do not want to be chased. Yr 5 and 6 boys being violent and swearing.
Surveys of staff and children highlighted some real concerns and spurred us on to action.
We started our project and over 18 months transformed our playtime experiences for pupils. Even after the main project had finished (Phase 1) we continued to highlight emerging issues with our pupils and staff and have continued to ensure access to the outdoors is a fundamental feature of our curriculum.
Every year group have OPAL lessons weekly, which allow children to be introduced to new equipment safely before they can then explore it themselves at break and lunchtimes. A popular feature on the annual school calendar is the OPAL Week , when as many lessons as possible are planned outdoors to use the schools’ grounds for play and learning.
Now pupils tell us they love playtimes. They have their own favourite places, spaces and games that they create and play in. There are many more pieces of equipment and spaces for them to gather and be imaginative in. They are upset when the whistle blows – and now we have free family access after school to all our lovely spaces until 5pm on school days. Sometimes we have 60 families enjoying the field and activities that are there for the children to use all day too.
On re-inspection we moved from Grade 4 (RI) to Grade 1 (Outstanding) in Behaviour and Safety at the Junior School!”Mrs Clare Fletcher, Headteacher of North Walsham Junior, Infant and Nursery School, Norfolk, writing in November 2016Clare has also sent us this;Staff were inspired into taking action following the training sessions he led with us- it’s all about getting us to think more deeply about what we are doing and why.. …We would never have what we have now, if it weren’t for the involvement of OPAL.
“Pupils show respect for others in many situations, for example through the harmonious relationships evident at playtimes. The school has invested heavily in improving play facilities and resources, with a designated play coordinator. Pupils enjoy the variety of stimulating opportunities for creative play, which have helped to eliminate almost all incidents of inappropriate behaviour. This has added to pupils’ enjoyment of school. High rates of attendance further confirm this enjoyment.”
OFSTED Report March 2012 – Beacon Rise Primary School, Bristol
St Stephan’s Bath
The OPAL programme has helped St Stephens’ Primary School transform our children’s access to great play opportunities every day. Michael our OPAL mentor has enabled us to make many improvements and above all shift the whole school’s attitude towards the value of play and how to provide for it. His work with the SMSAs has helped them understand the ideas of playwork which has resulted in a more positive playwork based role for the supervisors and more fun for the children. The structure of the programme has helped us to create a plan which will allow us to keep on improving the quality of play at the school in the future.
I would recommend the OPAL programme for other schools who are genuinely committed to making sure all children get access to great outdoor play (and Article 31 of the UNCHR) and would be happy to endorse OPAL’s entry for the Children and Young People Now award for Play.
Edmondsley Primary, County Durham
Headteacher Angela Reece of Edmondsley Primary (recently achieved OPAL Platinum Award)
West Lodge Primary School, Pinner, London
“I just wanted to let you know that the children (and most of the adults!!) have had the most amazing two days of play. I have got so many photos to show you!! I’ve just been on the front gate and lots of parents have also reported that the children are loving playtime now, and many of the teachers noted the children playing with children they have probably never spoken to before. I am delighted!”
Jenny Rolnick, Deputy Head, West Lodge Primary School, Pinner, London. March 2017
“Thanks Neil, It was so helpful to us having you come in and observe. We are so excited to be on this journey and are seeing positive results already! Kind regards, Jim.”
Mr Jim Dees, Headteacher, West Lodge Primary, Pinner March 2017