Play Equipment and Grounds
The OPAL team have a huge amount of experience on how to best develop school grounds in order to maximise play and learning. Our team includes the former director of Play England, the head of a Local Authority Play and Parks Services and a School Improvement Partner (SIP). The three main lessons for all schools from the hundreds we have supported are:
- Play-value and what you spend are not the same. It is easy to spend a lot and get little long term value
- You should have a master plan and not just buy new things and place them around
- How you use what you buy is directly related to your policies, your culture and your decision making
For these reasons we strongly recommend that schools wanting to invest in their grounds sign up to the OPAL Primary Programme, as it addresses all areas needed for better play including policy, health and safety, staffing and design.
Trim trails and fixed play equipment
Trim trails are low-level low-risk play equipment collections almost unique to the UK. They are marketed to provide physical challenge to children but without danger.
This suits the needs of fundraisers (e.g.PTA), manufacturers and schools but not the children. The concept of un-challenging challenging play equipment is deeply flawed because children can master all of the challenge presented in minutes, and then use the equipment either to sit on or to derive challenge that it was not designed for.
OPAL’s advice regarding fixed play equipment is that it only provides for one part, of one of the sixteen play types, and therefore only invest in it if you are really sure it is the answer to your problem. If you are sure it is what you want, then pick the most challenging that you dare and not the safest you can find.
OPAL does sometimes recommend certain pieces of fixed play equipment but only as part of a well thought through OPAL action plan.