West Lodge

Primary School

Outdoor Play and Learning (OPAL)



27th September 2018

20th July 2018

The HSE (Health and Safety Executive) promotes risky play!


It is always a slight worry to parents and to staff who work with children when they are engaged in what could be described as ‘risky play’. We are programmed to try and stop anything which poses any kind of risk. Recent research has shown that this is not preparing our children to make their own risk assessments and overcome problems and challenges. The HSE agrees with this, stating that play which carries some risk is not only allowed but should be actively encouraged. Children, by law, have the right to play.

Below is a link to the HSE report on why risky play should happen in schools:

A Sunny Day

March 2018


Reception have been having a super time outside too! Here are a few pictures to show you some of the things they have been up to:

29th September 2017



21st June 2017


We are Platinum!

We are so excited to announce that we have received the OPAL platinum award! When Neil Coleman – our OPAL mentor - carried out the audit we had progressed from 50% to 90% - a huge achievement in such a short space of time.


We were pleased to welcome Michael Follett – founder of OPAL – to West Lodge last Wednesday 14th June. Michael came along with Neil Coleman – our OPAL mentor – to present us with our platinum award for play. All children and staff attended the presentation ceremony on the field and we were delighted to accept our award (our new platinum award logo now takes pride of place at the top of this page, as well as on our school letterhead!). Whilst Michael was here, he interviewed Mr. Dees and Miss Rolnick, and took some wonderful film of the children.

West Lodge Primary Proving OPAL Platinum Standard Play

How our school transformed its approach to play with the help of Opal Outdoor Play and Learning

Although we are delighted to have achieved this award, we see this just as the start of the OPAL journey. We have lots of exciting plans for the future which we have discussed with the children. Our initial plans will involve the development of part of the playing field, so that we can develop natural loose parts play further. This will include a digging area and a wild flower area. In the longer term, we are hoping to develop the adventure playground area including a mud kitchen, some social seating and a stage area. We are also looking forward to opening part of the nature trail for the children to explore during their playtimes. The School Council have met with me and are going to spend some time talking to their classes about what they would like to include in the next phase of the OPAL journey. Watch this space!


In the meantime, please continue to donate any items that you have:

  • Items with wheels/castors

  • Suitcases

  • Road signs and cones

  • Desks, little tables, stools etc.

  • Tools like spades, trowels, brooms and buckets

  • Nets and ropes

  • Keyboards/torches/laptops/calculators that are no longer working

  • Cable drums

5th May 2017


West Lodge Primary School recognises the importance of the need for high quality sustainable play for children regardless of their needs and abilities and that inclusive play is achieved by offering carefully considered outdoor spaces that offer a real choice of accessible play opportunities.


At West Lodge Primary School, we want to help children to be safe, reliable, independent and successful citizens for the 21st century, embodying our West Lodge Values. We want to ensure each child is making appropriate progress in line with school achievement aims. We aim to give our children confidence and a desire to achieve their full potential.

West Lodge Promise:

  • To be informed by the children and work with the children to create a space that is exciting, engaging and enthuses children, where they feel safe to take risks and explore their world

  • To work in partnership with parents and the community making use of local expertise

  • Build projects collaboratively, respecting existing boundaries


    We are developing our outdoor play and learning with support from the OPAL (Outdoor play and Learning) programme (

    “The OPAL Programme is a mentor supported, year-long programme to enable a sustained, long-term improvement in the quality of playtimes at primary schools.”

    The OPAL Programme rationale is that: “More active and creative playtimes 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”.

Since embarking on the OPAL program, with support from Neil Coleman – our OPAL mentor - we have:

  • carried out risk benefit assessments with staff and children

  • delivered INSET for the whole staff team

  • held two parent sessions, led by Neil Coleman, OPAL mentor

  • produced and worked through a detailed action plan

  • written a policy for Play

  • visited OPAL platinum schools in Lewisham and Gloucestershire

  • held a grounds development day

  • requested loose parts from staff, parents and the local community

  • Set up a loose parts shed on the playground which all children have access to, and are responsible for tidying up at the end of playtime

  • empowered the play team (midday supervisors)

  • created open ended opportunities for children at playtime

  • Provided the children with enriching, exciting, fulfilling playtimes, that all children can access and enjoy, including SEN children.

  • Opened up our playground so that all children from Year 1 to year 6 can play together


Next steps

In the short term, we will begin to develop part of the field, to allow for more natural loose parts play, and will create a digging area. We hope to raise funds for a play beach and a mud kitchen in the future – watch this space!