Sport England project FAQs

  • Why do we need funding for children’s play?
  • Will the funding benefit all schools in the UK?
  • Is the OPAL programme being offered free of charge as part of the project?
  • How will the funding impact schools currently going through or have already completed the OPAL programme?
  • How many children will benefit from the project?
  • Will there be anything for parents?
  • What do OPAL mentors do?
  • Why has Sport England funded the project?
  • What is the PE and Sports Premium and how is it relevant to playtimes?
  • What is OPAL’s long-term vision for play in schools?
  • How will the funding impact the wider play sector?

Why do we need funding for children’s play?

All children need plenty of outdoor play with other children to support healthy physical and mental wellbeing. Over half of UK children only play outdoors with other children during the school day. The money will help to improve the quality of play provision schools are able to provide.

Will the funding benefit all schools in the UK?

The funding will pay for many resources which will be freely available to all schools. This will include a training course for everyone involved in the supervision of school playtimes, training videos and an information booklet for parents and carers.

Is the OPAL programme being offered free of charge as part of the project?

Payment of the costs of the OPAL Primary Programme for schools is not included in the funding. However new guidance from DFE on PE and Sports premium clarifies improving active and inclusive play in schools is a priority use of the premium.

How will the funding impact schools currently going through or have already completed the OPAL programme?

Some of funded projects are designed to support current OPAL schools to sustain their improved practice. This will include funded regional network meetings, improved OPAL training resources, a national conference and a moderated Facebook forum to enable shared best practice.

How many children will benefit from the project?

The funding will enable OPAL to double the number of schools it can support from 100 a year to 200 a year. This will mean around 25,000 more children each year will get to benefit from hugely improved play opportunities in schools. Once a school has completed the programme all of the children continue to benefit from better play so over 5 years around 166,000 children will benefit.

Will there be anything for parents?

One of the resources being developed with the funding is a booklet for parents on play along with practical ideas to do at home and in the neighborhood. This will be available through the OPAL website and through schools.

What do OPAL mentors do?

OPAL mentors are school improvement advisers who work with schools over an 18-month period to change the whole school’s approach to play. They support the school to change their policies, planning, training, staffing structure, resourcing, environment and understanding. The end result is that every child has an amazing playtime, every day.

Why has Sport England funded the project?

Sport England and the Government both want to get the nation more active for more of the time. OPAL understands that all children love to play and when they play outdoors they are active. Children spend 1.4 years of their school lives in playtimes – they have time and space for active play, which means there is great potential for improvement waiting to be unlocked. Sport England want more schools to access OPAL because it is a proven method of improving the quality and quantity of active play children experience in school.

What is the PE and Sports Premium and how is it relevant to playtimes?

The PE and Sports Premium is government funding given to every school which must be used to create sustainable improvements in children’s activity. In the past schools tended to assume this was meant to be spent on sports and PE only. The guidance from Nov 1st 2019 now puts two of the top priorities as being directed at the least active children, not the most active and for active play in schools.

What is OPAL’s long-term vision for play in schools?

UK schools currently spend around £750,000,000 on the supervision of playtimes annually and children spend 1.4 years of their school lives in playtimes. Most schools provide little or no guidance or training for the people overseeing play and have no policy or strategic planning to support improvement.

OPAL believes that play is so important to the wellbeing of children that all schools should have a much clearer understanding of the nature and value of play, and a clear strategy of how to improve it. Ultimately the work of supporting schools to be excellent providers of play should be supported by government and OSFTED as well as OPAL.

How will the funding impact the wider play sector?

The past few years have decimated the play sector with many adventure playgrounds and play ranger projects forced to shut down through lack of funding. OPAL believes there is a natural home for playwork in schools. Schools lack the knowledge and expertise which playworkers have. Every school could and should employ playwork trained staff to lead their play teams and mange the quality of their play provision.