Do you know:

  • Play makes up 20% of school life
  • Children spend approximately 231 hours or 7.4 weeks at play every year
  • During seven years at primary school this equates to 1.4 years at play.

According to Doherty and Hughes, 2014, ‘there is no better activity for learning and development than play.’ So here at Dame Allan’s Junior School we introduced the new OPAL (Outdoor Play and Learning) programme in 2023.  

What does this mean? It means we have decided that play is amazing, important, fun and great for children in so many ways! We have changed the way we view play times here in the Junior School, initiating a whole school approach to place OUTSTANDING PLAY at the forefront of every play time. 

What is OPAL?

Research has shown that for every aspect of children’s development, there is a form of play behind it. It supports all aspects of physical, intellectual and social-emotional growth. 

There are 15 types of play identified within OPAL:

  • Symbolic Play – pretend playing with objects or toys representing other objects.

  • Locomotor Play – movement in any or every direction.

  • Recapitulative Play – exploring ancestry, history and stories.

  • Creative Play – practising skills for self-expression.

  • Exploratory Play – learning about the world and the effect they can have on the environment.

  • Deep Play – learning to take risks.

  • Imaginative Play – open-ended play to explore using their imaginations.

  • Social Play – interacting with peers.

  • Mastery Play – purposeful play.

  • Object Play – playful use of objects.

  • Role Play – exploring scenarios they have seen, experienced or would like to experience.

  • Socio-dramatic Play – imaginative and dramatic play shared with peers.

  • Communication Play – communicating with peers.

  • Dramatic Play – taking on the role of someone else.

  • Fantasy Play – play which rearranges the world in the child’s eyes.

What are the benefits of OPAL play?

The benefits of play are extensive, including:

  • Health and wellbeing
  • Emotional wellbeing                           
  • Early cognitive development
  • Social development
  • Cognitive development
  • Learning about risk and challenge
  • Physical activity & literacy
  • Play as therapy
  • Mental health
  • Resilience and character 

"I really enjoy all the new activities we can do, it’s not just playing tag anymore there’s so much more to do! I love the prams and den building! "

Ivy, Year 1 

"I think it’s great, we have lots of possibilities and we get to do so much fun stuff!"

Ethan, Year 3

The OPAL Primary Programme rationale is that, ‘better, more active and creative play times can mean happier and healthier children, and having happier, healthier, more active children usually results in a more positive attitude to learning in school, with more effective classroom lessons, less staff time spent resolving unnecessary behavioural problems, fewer playtime accidents, happier staff and a healthier attitude to life.’ 

What your child needs for OPAL

We want the children to be out every day, in all weathers, playing and exploring in all parts of our grounds. Please make sure they have wellies and waterproofs in school as they do love to get muddy!!

Don’t throw it away!

We are continually developing our play offer as we work through the OPAL programme and are always looking for any spare items you have that we could use.

We love donations. This list names most of our popular items. 

  • Prams/buggies

  • Roller skates 

  • Suitcases of any size and type - anything on wheels/castors

  • Plastic milk crates and wooden pallets

  • Briefcases, especially hard cased ones

  • Road signs and cones

  • Kitchen pots, pans, baking trays, worktables, wooden spoons, chopping boards

  • Tools like spades, trowels, brooms and buckets

  • Tubes of various sizes and various materials

  • Nets and ropes

  • Keyboards/hairdryers/straighteners that are no longer working.

  • Wool 

  • Fabric (large sheets/brightly coloured fabric/saris)

  • Cable drums

  • Noodles (the type you use in the swimming pool!)

  • Pegs (to help to set up dens)

Thank you to everyone who has donated items so far.

"Play times are much better than before. We have so much more to play with."

Hattie, Year 6

"Play times before weren't as good as we only had a slide and now we have so much more. It's way more fun and exciting."

Tessa, Year 6

"l like the music area in the top yard and the scooters the best! "

Julie, Year 2


For more information about the OPAL provision at Dame Allan's please see our play policy.

DAJS Play Policy