Hull Collegiate School (Independent)

Name: Andrew Sandilands/Kaysie Windeatt

Position in School: KS2 teacher/ Opal Play Lead

Name of school: Hull Collegiate School

Still in programme or award level: Platinum Award 😊

What type of school are you?

Independent 3-18 school with C600 children

What were the grounds like?

Whilst we’re lucky to have vast grounds the opportunities for the children to utilise the space, especially for Prep, were severely limited, leaving just a smallish rectangular playground for the children.

What did the play offer look like before OPAL?

In all honesty, for Prep there wasn’t one. Nursery has first-rate facilities, but from Pre-Prep onwards, there wasn’t a lot available to the children at all, other than standard playground equipment in an enclosed setting. Opportunities for adventure were limited to the termly trips to Forest School and the school’s amazing grounds were not being utilised.

What behavioural issues were there?

In Prep most children were confined to a fenced-in concrete playground. Congestion was an issue as the children felt cramped and couldn’t ‘let off steam’. This frustration led to more disagreements between children. This resulted in teaching time/registration time being eaten into some days for teachers. There were also arguments over equipment and who could use it which days owing to the limitations on space. There was only one football match allowed in the playground at a time so this would be a very crowded affair. There were often minor injuries that led to visits to the nurse. Children often would go to the nurse to avoid playtimes. At the end of playtime, the children were asked to line up and be quiet. This sometimes had a detrimental effect on the children as not all children would be efficient in this. Instead of an elated child returning from a good play, often children were dissatisfied with their break time and not in the right state of mind to maximise their learning potential inside of school. We also had a few children who regarded the playground as a daunting place.

How has OPAL improved the equality of your play offer across gender, age and ability?

The impact of OPAL is evident regarding how we use space, our children now have extensive grounds to roam and to play in. We have fields to support our sports offering, woods to accommodate tree climbing and mud kitchens, a construction zone for our budding architects and engineers. A small world area and quiet section with bean bags complement the digging zone and a new large shed houses our go-karts, scooters and bikes, as well as other small/large parts to spark the imagination of our children. They are active, interactive, and motivated to play. We have noticed a willingness from the children to mix outside their usual friendship groups as the desire to do a specific activity outweighs the importance of who is doing it. This has been incredibly beneficial for those children who are less social and for those who find building relationships challenging. We very rarely have a child standing alone or with nothing to do and trips to the school nurse are much lower. Pastorally we have far fewer issues and often at playtime any issues that have arisen during other school time are resolved. I think this is owing to the positive environment we have created.

What difference has OPAL made to the quality of play?

Through the process of implementing the OPAL ethos we have learnt that there are so many different types of play. This means that the quality of playtimes for our children is very high. We have listened to the children and have delivered their requested play opportunities as much as possible. Playtimes at Tranby feel very personal to our children and the process of play is very organic and changing all the time. This is another reason why our playtimes are of high quality.

What difference has OPAL made to your lunchtime staff?

The OPAL scheme has empowered lunchtime staff to be more than ‘guardians’ and become ‘play givers’. Even though some children prefer to play independently, because of OPAL this is not assumed and many a precious moment has been experienced as children excitedly want to include staff in whatever activity they are doing that day. Seeing a child playing is another side to that individual, one that may be very different to the usual one seen in the classroom. I believe there is a closeness between staff on duty and children as the positivity from play helps form a special bond.

What other impacts has OPAL made?

The impact of OPAL on our school and children was not expected to be on the scale that it has been. The physical, emotional, and mental health of our children have benefited greatly. We now see play as a subject and it is regarded as the highlight of many of our children’s day. We are constantly thinking about how we can use our playtime to benefit the children and their experience at school. We have changed the perception of play within the school community, we know that play is a powerful development tool and not just for fun. This powers us on.


What advice would you give to a school thinking of enrolling on the OPAL Primary Programme? 

Do it! Ingrid supported us and challenged long-held perceptions of play. Without her uncompromising drive and genuine care to get us to be the best, we wouldn’t have what we are so proud of today.

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