Sport England and The National Lottery has awarded OPAL 18 months of expansion funding. This grant will, between June 2020 and December 2021, establish an expanded regional team and new technical resources which, when ready, will be available to all schools across England. The funds come in response to the Department for Education’s 1st November 2019 updating of the PE and School Sports Premium (PESSP) guidance, a change first proposed in the APPG’s Play report back in October 2015.

The PESSP five key indicators for schools now require the “engagement of all pupils in regular physical activity”, for instance by;

  • providing targeted activities or support to involve and encourage the least active children
  • encouraging active play during break times and lunchtimes
  • establishing, extending or funding attendance of school sport clubs and activities and holiday clubs, or broadening the variety offered
  • adopting an active mile initiative
  • raising attainment in primary school swimming to meet requirements of the national curriculum before the end of key stage 2. Every child should leave primary school able to swim.[1]

In their 2019 Active Lives Children and Young People[2] study, Sport England found that the biggest motivator of physical activity in children aged between 5 and 11 was ‘Playing’! In fact, playing was found to be more popular within this age group than Team Sports, Swimming or any other activity, which is why Sport England and the Department for Education, with their mission to reduce childhood inactivity, want to see every school improve their playtime provision.

Outdoor Play and Learning (OPAL) CIC was founded in 2005. The not-for-profit organisation exists to support schools that want to permanently transform the quality of the playtime experiences they provide to all pupils every day. This support is important nationally because around one fifth of each school day in England is allocated to playtimes and the unskilled adult supervision of children’s play, with no measure by Ofsted or others of what constitutes good quality, currently costs an estimated £750 million every year.

OPAL client schools report dramatic improvements in levels of behaviour, boredom, inactivity, staff stress, social engagement and enjoyment with school life. Michael Follett, OPAL’s Founder and Director, says;

“We have already improved playtime for over half a million children, building on what they love to do because playing is an innate behaviour for all children. This fantastic growth funding from The National Lottery and Sport England will help us bring the benefits of outdoor playtime to many more children, teachers and parents across the country.”

[1] https://www.gov.uk/guidance/pe-and-sport-premium-for-primary-schools

[2] https://www.sportengland.org/know-your-audience/demographic-knowledge/children-and-young-people#research

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