Play in schools – essential downloads

Quick list – Just click highlighted text to download or scroll down to see more.

    1. ERA Emotional Range Assessment Chart – A reflective practice tool for assessing the quality of play and play  environments
    2. Making Playtimes a Key Part of the School Day – Produced with Unilever for Outdoor Classroom Day. Your first steps guide
    3. If we are to learn to love mother earth …. Free Muddy Play Poster from OPAL
    4. Early Years Outdoor Play Landscape Design Brief – An essential starting point for all playgrounds improvements
    5. Managing Risk in Play -The Implementation Guide – Published by the Play Safety Forum. How to do risk-benefit assessment and why
    6. Risk-Benefit Assessment Form – Published by the Play Safety Forum – The best practice way to assess risk in play
    7. This Place is like a Building Site – Report and resources from PLAYLINK on developing loose parts play in primary school
    8. Playpods Evaluation Report – Marc Armitage’s evaluation report on the trial of Scrapstore Playpods in nine primary schools



The OPAL Programme

The UK’s only evaluated strategic programme for improving play in primary schools.

Making Play a Key Part of the School Day – Produced in association with Outdoor Classroom Day and Unilever, A first steps guide


Supporting School Improvement Through Play – Independent report on the OPAL programme



‘Play’ All Party Parliamentary Group on Childhood – Oct 2015 Policy report cites OPAL 4 times as good practice


What  works in Schools and Colleges to Increase Physical Activity? – Oct 2015 Public Health England briefing for Head Teachers



The Future of Play 2013 Lego Foundation ReportA report into the nature and future of play by a panel of world experts



Playtime Revolution –

A guide for schools to support play in the curriculum from Learning Through Landscapes

Natural Play:Making a difference to children’s learning andwellbeing – Research from The Forestry Commission

on the impact of natural play space in primary schools.


Play for Today – 2014 report into the importance of play by Rebecca Caswell & Tom Warman for the National Children’s Museum



Children’s Play and Leisure Promoting a Balanced Approach -From the H&SE, a must on risk management for all schools wishing to develop play

Evaluating the effects of the Lunchtime  Activity and Play (LEAP) 2014 Research from AUS and NZ demonstrating increase in physical activity in school play from mass loose parts play intervention.




Positive Playgrounds – Playboard Northern Ireland’s report into their school playtime project

The Use of School Grounds for Playing Out of Teaching Hours – A comprehensive toolkit for schools from Play Wales



The Pocket Guide to Playwork – The playwork principles and introduction to playwork from Skillsactive


The OPAL Programme Booklet


The OPAL Programme…
Children in British primary schools spend 20% or 1.4 years of their school attendance in play and yet many schools have no strategic or values based approach to play across all ages.
The Outdoor Play and Learning (OPAL) programme is a mentor supported school improvement programme. It addresses all of the areas schools must plan for if they want to strategically and sustainably improve the quality of play.The OPAL Programme is the only programme of its kind that has been independently proven to sustainably improve the quality of play in British primary schoolsThe OPAL programme supports schools in developing a cultural shift in thinking about and supporting children’s play. Its success comes from a series of interrelated actions undertaken with the specialist support from the OPAL mentor. This embeds play into school’s policies and practices and establishes clear guiding principles and strategies for initiating changes at playtimes. The results can be transformational and – at best – spectacular, and show progress even in more challenging school environments.

Supporting School Improvement Through Play – The OPAL Report


OPAL is the only programme for play development that has, not only been developed and tested by a local government school improvement service, but also been independently evaluated by two universities.You can download the full report below.

Natural Play: Making a difference to children’s learning and wellbeing


Natural Play: Making a difference to children’s learning and wellbeing presents the findings of a longitudinal study of the pioneering partnership between Forestry Commission Scotland, Glasgow City Council and Merrylee primary school in Glasgow. It provides evidence to show that children’s engagement with a natural play space within school grounds has a multitude of positive impacts on their learning and physical and emotional wellbeing.

The study also provides a value for money assessment, concluding that the cost of developing natural play spaces is comparable with those of building traditional tarmac playgrounds. In view of the benefits outlined in the report, it is argued that the provision of a natural playspace within school grounds represents excellent value for

You can download the full report from the button below

Play for Today – National Museum of Childhood Report on Play


During the 2014 school summer holidays Eureka! The National Children’s Museum, based in Halifax, West Yorkshire, conducted a survey of over 2,500 children aged 5-11 years and adults to find answers to a range of questions around play and its role in the lives and development of children today.

What we found was that, contrary to perceptions in the media, children aren’t permanently glued to technology and actually have a preference for playing outdoors. Similarly, their parents really do see play as a fundamental tool to their child’s development and see it as being as important as formal education. However, limited time and anxiety around leaving children to their own devices to play outdoors has meant that the instinctive default for most families is to keep children inside.

Free, unbounded, independent play in a variety of outdoor environments such as the street, park, local woods or any open green space is out-of-bounds for many children, unless accompanied by their parents or an adult carer.
This is a major concern, particularly given that children are now subject to closer scrutiny over their academic abilities at an even earlier age than previous generations. Yet, as our findings revealed, both children and adults want more time to play. Let’s give it to them.

Evaluating the effects of the Lunchtime Enjoyment Activity and Play (LEAP) school playground intervention


This study consisted of a movable/recycled materials intervention that included baseline, a 7-week post-test and an 8-month follow-up data collection phase. Children within an intervention school (n = 123) and a matched control school (n = 152) aged 5-to-12-years-old were recruited for the study. Children’s PA was measured using a combination of pedometers and direct observation (SOPLAY). Quality of life, enjoyment of PA and enjoyment of lunchtime activities were assessed in the 8-12 year children. A multi-level mixed effect linear regression model was applied in STATA (version 12.0) using the xtmixed command to fit linear mixed models to each of the variables to examine whether there was a significant difference (p < 0.05) between the intervention and control school at the three time points (pre, post and follow-up).

Examining the effects of this school playground intervention over a school year suggested that the introduction of movable/recycled materials can have a significant, positive long-term intervention effect on children’s PA. The implications from this simple, low-cost intervention provide impetus for schools to consider introducing the concept of a movable/recycled materials intervention on a wider scale within primary school settings.

ERA Emotional Range Assessment – Reflective Practice Tool


ERA ERA is Emotional Range Assessment tool currently in development by OPAL and other partners. ERA can be used by practitioners during their work as a fast way to gather data on their children’s observed emotional response to the outdoor environment.
You are free to use ERA. Please give feedback to OPAL on how you used it, whether it is useful and how it could be improved.You can use OPAL to:
1. To record observations on behaviour of a child – Observe one child over ten minutes. Record where on the emotional range you judge a child to be by putting a number corresponding to the minute in each of the four column. You should end up with clusters of numbers 1-10 in each column.
2. To record observations of use of a space by a group – Use as above but observe a different child each minute.

OPAL Poster If we are to learn….


To download poster click on link below

Early Years Outdoor Play Landscape Design Brief


If you are going to improve the quality of your outdoor play environment it is essential that you do not rely the company you are buying from as the only source of advice.

The idea of a deign brief is to help you to be clear about what are the principles you want applied during the development of your space.  The download below is a simple brief that you can use as the starting point for your design choices.

Please respect copyright and acknowledge source when using.

The Play Wales Toolkit


This comprehensive toolkit from Play Wales has been put together to help enable the schools provide better use of school grounds for after school play.  It is designed to provide clear and concise information for school communities and their partners to assess the feasibility of making school grounds available for children’s play out of teaching hours.The toolkit considers a range of issues that need to be taken into account. It includes quotes from head teachers and case studies that demonstrate a range of models. It also provides practical, step-by-step tools and templates to undertaking work linked to the opening of school grounds for playing out of teaching hours.

Skills Active Playwork Principles and Pocket Guide to Playwork


Playwork skills should underpin the work of all adults whose role is to promote and support play.

These principles establish the professional and ethical framework for playwork, describe what is unique about play and playwork, and provide the playwork perspective for working with children and young people.They are based on the recognition that children and young people’s capacity for positive development will be enhanced if given access to the broadest range of environments and play opportunities.

This booklet is a great introduction to playwork for school meal supervisors.

Playtime Revolution from Learning Through Landscapes


This resource is for anyone who has an interest in children’s wellbeing at school, although it has been designed to be particularly relevant to support staff. It explores how outdoor play in schools supports children’s learning and development, identifies a range of ideas for enriching play and shares practical advice from schools that have developed good play practice.

Each of the 11 sections is accompanied by short notes, discussion questions and links to further useful resources. We strongly suggest that you use this resource together with colleagues to encourage discussion and planning about how you take some of these ideas forward in your school.

Heath and Safety Executive – Essential Brief on Play and Risk


Health and safety laws and regulations are sometimes presented as a reason why certain play and leisure activities undertaken by children and young people should be discouraged. Such decisions are often based on misunderstandings about what the law requires. The HSE has worked with the Play Safety Forum to produce a joint high-level statement that gives clear messages tackling these misunderstandings. HSE fully endorses the principles in this Statement.

This document is an essential foundation for all schools based play and should underpin all decisions on risk and play.

Managing Risk in Play Provision The Implementation Guide


Children need and choose exciting places to play, which inevitably means managing situations that are inherently risky. This publication recognises this and gives guidance to providers about how this can be reconciled with a natural desire for children’s safety. It introduces the concept of balancing risks with benefits in a process of risk-benefit
assessment that has now become recognised as an appropriate approach to risk management across play, leisure and education.

Risk benefit assessment is the process recommended by the Health and Safety Executive to enable providers to reach sensible balanced decisions on appropriate risk in play. It is an essential document for school which are serious about play.

Risk Benefit Assessments


Published by the Play Safety Forum, the Risk-Benefit Assessment Form is an easy-to-use tool to support play providers to balance the benefits of an activity with any inherent risk, taking into account the risks while recognising the benefits to children and young people of challenging play experiences.

It will be invaluable for all those who manage spaces and settings in which children play, and for those involved in designing and maintaining them. The initiative is supported by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and the UK Government.

If you want to see how the form might be filled in download the sample form here.

Positive Playgrounds Report – Playboard NI


PlayBoard developed the Positive PlayGrounds project in response to several factors, including the increase in childhood obesity, requests from schools for training, significant investment in playground markings and concerns that playgrounds were not being used to optimal levels.Findings indicate that the programme has had a very significant positive impact on
children within school playgrounds and has fully met all of its aims:
· Develop the provision of quality play/learning opportunities in primary school playgrounds.
· Offer training & development opportunities for those adults working in schools.
· Encourage the development of children’s social, personal & physical wellbeing through participation in the programme.
The evaluation of the findings also resulted in five recommendations.

This Place is Like  Building Site – PLAYLINK and North Lanarkshire


This is a report of the work commissioned by North Lanarkshire Council’s Learning and Leisure Services to support and develop ongoing work in three of its primary schools as part of the Natural Play Project. It is accompanied by a short video of the same name and their main purpose is both to inspire other schools to embark on such work and to give them the practical tools and information to do so.

Scrapstore Playpods Evaluation Report


Scrapstore Playpods are provided by Children’s Scrapstore in Bristol. They were they result of an extensive research project funded by the National Lottery which looked at the impact of the introduction of abundant loose part in nine primary schools in the south west.
Marc Armitage carried out the independent evaluation.

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