Highlights of OPAL Play Meeting for Parents

1214701Michael Follett from OPAL held a parent audience yesterday in a meeting focussed on Blue Coat’s decision to review its approach to play at break and lunch times. Michael has worked with over 180 schools on developing their programme of play, is a member of the board for Play England and has worldwide recognition for his work in this field.

The presentation to parents set the scene by addressing how quality play is often put at risk due to factors associated with modern lifestyles. In this context, he underlined the responsibility that schools have in order to conserve and promote rich, purposeful play for our children.

Other schools who are successfully carrying out the approach were mentioned at the meeting. A typical Beacon Rise Primary School lunchtime had been videoed and this was shown to attending parents to give them a slice of the vision that OPAL holds for the schools it partners with. This school has a higher number of pupils on roll but with a similar size site to that of Blue Coat.

Below are the highlights of the session, in presentation format, with also the key areas covered for those who could not make it on this occasion:

  • Play is 20% of school life in primary years. This equates to 1.4 years of primary school!
  • Play is a significant part of child development – an opportunity to experiment, relate to the world, discover, solve problems, interact socially, develop imagination etc
  • Children learn as they play where play can be defined as ‘the things I do when I’m not told what to do!’
  • (Quality) play can unlock learning that cannot be easily to facilitated in the classroom learning environment
  • Play has changed as childhood has changed for children
  • Play for the audience when they were 10-11 years old was likely to be very different to play for children today: the very large majority expressed that the most memorable play memories were evoked from the outdoors, without a supervising adult, and featured elements of risk
  • Traffic, heightened media speculation of 'stranger danger', busy lifestyles, reduction of shared public spaces and Health & Safety fears have had a significant (negative) influence on shaping play for children – childhood obesity, reduced cognitive development, and lost opportunities for play have all been resultant outcomes
  • Scandinavian countries continue to have some of the best education systems in the world. The facilitation of quality play remains a high priority in these countries due to its contribution to developing the ‘whole child’
  • Health & Safety legislation for schools has recently changed, as stated by the Health & Safety Executive (HSE). Schools have a responsibility to ensure that risk management of play does not lead to ‘sterile play’
  • HSE: Challenging play opportunities should be provided so as to encourage children to manage risk rather than avoid it on order to equip them to deal with ‘working life’
  • Decision making, Access and Quality are the key focuses in developing a play programme in a school
  • Blue Coat have a ‘Play Development team’ comprised of senior leaders, middle leaders, PTA, the site manager and OPAL who will have the responsibility of planning and phasing in the different stages of the programme of play for the school
  • All actions will be reviewed on an ongoing basis and information will continue to be shared with parents, children and staff throughout