In 2021 Bridgewater started a programme to improve opportunities for physical activity, socialisation, co-operation, coordination, resilience, creativity, imagination and enjoyment through improved play. In April 2023 we were delighted to be awarded Gold status! Full announcement here – www.bridgewater.newcastle.sch.uk/opal-gold-award/

The OPAL Outdoor Play and Learning Programme is the result of 17 years testing and development in over 500 schools and is now used in Canada, France and New Zealand as well as across the UK. Work has started to adapt the programme for schools in Slovakia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Austria. In 2018 OPAL won first prize in an EU funded award for the best active school’s programme in Europe and two UK national playwork awards.

OPAL is based on the idea that as well as learning through good teaching, your children also learn when they play, and as 20% of their time in school is playtime, we want to make sure that this amount of time (equivalent to 1.4 years of primary school) is as good as possible.

One reason the school is involved in this programme is that childhood has changed, and many children no longer get their play needs met out of school.

  • Average screen time per day: 5 hours
  • Average outdoor play time per week: 5 hours
  • Percentage of UK children who only play outdoor with other children at school: 56%

There are many proven benefits for schools which carry out the OPAL Programme. They usually include: more enjoyment of school, less teaching time lost to disputes between children, less accidents and greatly improved behaviour.

Play is not messing about. It is the process evolution has come up with to enable children to learn all of the things that cannot be taught, while also feeling like it is fun. There are certain things children must have in order to be able to play. These include:

  • Having clothes that you can play in
  • Having things to play with
  • Having a certain amount of freedom

As we continue to improve play opportunities for your children, you may find the school is asking you for resources and is making changes about how the children use the school grounds. They may use more of the grounds, for more of the year. Your children may get a bit messier, be exposed to more challenges and have greater freedoms to play where, with whom and how they like. The experiences we are fostering are essential for children’s physical and mental well-being and health and in line with all current good practice advice on health & safety, well-being and development.

If you would like to learn more about the OPAL Primary Programme, please click on the booklet below.

You are also be able to learn all about OPAL and watch several videos about the programme on their website outdoorplayandlearning.org.uk.

You will continue to be invited to events in the coming 18 months where you can come and see for yourselves what is happening and join in too!


Click the links below to find out more.

OPAL Booklet 2021

Developments to the Play Landscape at Bridgewater