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OPAL - Outdoor Play and Learning 

It has long been recognised that play is fundamental to a child’s health, happiness, development and well being. Research has also shown that children spend 20% of their time in school playing. This led staff to reflect upon how playtimes could be improved in our school and in the Spring of 2024 our OPAL journery begun.

The OPAL vision is that “every child in every school has an amazing hour of high quality play every day” and as a school we share this vision and recognise the enormous benefits play has on a child’s life.

Children spend 7 years at our school, 1.4 of those years is at playtime! Being an OPAL school allows us to strategically and sustainably improve the quality of our play offer. It embeds play into our school policies and practices and establishes clear, guiding principles for initiating lasting changes at playtime.

What does this mean for our school?

  • Happier children

  • Children coming into class ready to learn

  • A fully inclusive playtime offer

  • It allows children an opportunity to be creative and make decisions

  • Children develop independence and resilience skills

  • Increased social skills

  • …. and most importantly fun!

The Working Group

The OPAL programme is led by a working party who will meet regularly to plan, implement and evaluate playtimes to ensure we are continuously improving the standard of our playtimes. 

We promise to ensure that OPAL will always be championed, promoted, communicated with parents and offering rich benefits for our children. Watch this space…. we’re only just getting started!

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The Play Team

Our Play Team are a crucial component in delivering amazing play every day at our school. These are the members of staff that can be found outside at lunchtimes and are the team supporting one fifth of children’s time in school.

Although we have a core play team at lunchtime, all of the staff at St Monica's play a part in supporting play at our school, as they all spend some time during the school week supporting playtimes.

All staff members at St Monica's value play and understand that play is an essential part of a happy and healthy childhood. As a team, we aim to provide consistently high quality, sustainable play opportunities for all children.

Our Playteam


April 2024

We have launched Phase 1! Our children are having a fabulous time playing with our Lego, dress up items, dolls, cars, bubbles and chalk! Thank you to everyone who has sent in donations to help. We are still looking for lots of donations for Phase 1 and our future phases. Please take a look at our donation list for anything you may be able to help with!


March 2024

We had an extremely successful grounds meeting this month. In the meeting, out OPAL working group looked at the map of our school an planned out the areas of our school we would like to develop. We have created a first draft of our phased grounds development. If you take a glance at our initial playground design plan below, you will get a flavour of the phased plans which will guide us closer to improving the quality of play and creativity at play times. As expected, with the ever-changing climate of schools, the phases may be tweaked slightly, though any changes to the original draft plan will be made, as always, with the children’s learning and development in mind. As ever, we will keep you updated with the latest playground news and events. We are very excited to get the ball rolling!


January 2024

We have been busy this month establishing our OPAL working group and working with Beth to start our first stages of planning. We will be working over the next few months to redesign our school grounds to ensure pupils have access to more learning experiences and exciting resources to play with. We have play assemblies planned and will be having a 'launch day' - date to be announced soon!

We will also be having a donation day soon, where we will be asking parents to help us resource new play opportunities for our children with things you may be getting rid of in your spring clean! Keep a look out for this information after half term.

December 2023

Mrs Pearson and Miss Lambert met with Beth Trolan (our OPAL mentor) to work through the first audit of our playtimes. Our Baseline score was 36% (Most schools score between 30 - 40% at baseline.) Beth said that our site had lots of potentional and that there was already a strong offering in place. We are very excited to get started, opening up more of our school grounds to the children and providing more oppotunities for a variety of play types.

Just look at our wonderful grounds, so much to work with!


If you would like to learn more about the OPAL Primary Programme, please have a look at the OPAL website (www.outdoorplayandlearning.org.uk), where you will find lots of useful information and several videos about the programme.

Loving to learn,
learning to love like Jesus

About Our School

St Monica's Catholic Primary School
We would love to welcome you to our friendly school, we are situated in the heart of Appleton, and have great transport links to Stockton Heath and Grappenhall.

Where Are We

St Monica's Catholic Primary School St Monica's Close, Appleton, Warrington, WA4 3AW

Let's Connect

Miss L Ruth/Mrs N Crampton
School Administration