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OPAL fun and news

Welcome to our OPAL blog.

We wanted to share with you some of the fantastic things that we get up to at playtimes. Additionally, we also thought that this would be a good place to share information about events and how you can help. We are always looking for new resources and loose parts so if you can help by donating any items then we would really appreciate it.

Each week – in our Celebration Assembly – some children are chosen to receive a Play Award. This can be for many things including; positive play, imagination, creativity, helpfulness, kindness to peers or being a fantastic role model.

Reminder: Please encourage your child to have their wellies in school as this enables them to access all areas in most weathers. Wellies aren’t just needed in the rain but they are used to ensure safe exploration in the forest for example or more fun experiences in the mud kitchen. We have new carpets in school and need to look after them.

IMPORTANT- we would love to see what outdoor play and learning you have been getting up to while you are staying safe at home. We would love it if you could email any pictures that you don’t mind us sharing on this blog. This way all of your friends can see what you have been getting up to. It’s also important to stay connected at the moment and this is a nice way of doing that.

Send your pictures to fatfield.academy@inspiremultiacademytrust.co.uk and put for the attention of S Grotz.

Week Beginning 30.03.20

Here are some useful websites that you may find entertaining, useful or helpful.

  1. Looking for some heartwarming entertainment to enjoy from the comfort of your own home? We have rounded up the best animal live streams from around the world you can watch online for free.


2. Watch some of the adventures of Steve Backshall on his expeditions


3. Scout indoor activities


or try one of these:

Indoor activitieshttps://www.nhs.uk/change4life/activities/indoor-activities

Family fun activities indoor – https://www.familydaystriedandtested.com

PE with Joe https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLyCLoPd4VxBvQafyve889qVcPxYEjdSTl  

Go Noodle  (lots of songs with actions to keep fit)  https://family.gonoodle.com/

BBC Super Movers  https://www.bbc.co.uk/teach/supermovers

Cosmic Yoga  https://www.youtube.com/user/CosmicKidsYoga

Learn to dance with Oti Mabuse every day at 11.00 and at any time


Week Beginning 23.03.20

Although our school is current closed to the majority of pupils, I thought this would be a good chance to share some of the responses from the parent questionnaires.

60% of parents told us that they thought that their child’s confidence had improved in some way.

Comments stated that they liked the structure and felt that their child had better relationships with children of all ages and staff. One parent told us that their child loves the responsibility of being a cupboard monitor.

A huge 87% said that their child’s safety at playtimes had not changed.

It’s nice to know that you understand that introducing alternative play will not compromise the safety of any child or staff member. During playtime activities we encourage children to take risks but alongside that we talk them through the process. We ask questions such as; what could happen? How will we ensure safety? How could you check safely? Safety is paramount in our school and teaching children to think about their own safety and make risk benefit assessments of their own means that they can judge situations better. We have lot of Health and Safety discussions in assemblies and around the playground.

Comments on the survey suggest that the school will maintain all pre-opal standards of safety – this is very true.

60% of parents stated that their child’s friendship groups have improved

lot of the comments suggest that this is mainly because children can chose where they want to play and therefore mix with younger and older peers. One parent stated that this has also helped their child outside of school as they play with each other outside of school too. Lots of comments stated how the children enjoy talking about playing with their new friends and are always talking about the fun that they have had.

This is very important to us. We know that initially parents may have had concerns but the children have learned so much from their peers. Children look out for each other, even if they aren’t in their class, as well as making sure everyone has someone to play with. Additionally, children take more notice of what other children are doing. Just last week, some of the older children made go-karts and slides. Because the younger children could see how much fun their had, they too wanted to participate in making one. From this they listened to how they communicated, how they talked about problem solving and how to work as a team safely. This is just a short list but the older children also learned new experiences. They learned how to communicate with younger peers so that they understand, how to ensure that their safety is the first priority and they also learned from their imagination new ideas.

63% stated that their child’s happiness at playtimes had improved and the other 37% said that it had not changed.

This is great news! A lot of the comments talk about the availability of activities and resources available meaning they have less time for boredom. Trust me, every day is different outside in our play spaces. We have also just introduced a timetable of activities that will be placed within the different areas to ensure that we don’t get bored of those areas too. In addition to this, we also have a suggestion box in school where children can pop in their ideas. This could be anything from a song suggestion for the I-pad, new resources we could ask for or an activity that they would like us to prepare for. It is important that we listen to our young people as it is their ideas and experiences that we want to promote.

What would your child say about OPAL?

This was my favourite part 🙂

  • Better than his last school. They have a choice of bikes/scooters
  • Good but they wont build a swimming pool
  • It’s better now with all the new stuff
  • Has made playtime more fun
  • loves playing in the ‘big yard’
  • It’s so much fun, I love playing on the scooter
  • It’s the best because you go on the grass with wellies on
  • I like playing with the bikes and phones
  • It’s great, I love it
  • She enjoys helping to collect things
  • She is very happy, safe and confident at school

What are your views as a parent about OPAL?

This part is one of the most important. It is important because we need to work together and communicate effectively so that you know we are giving your child the best learning experiences but with safety as the priority.

  • Brilliant, this had made a significant improvement (although our washing bills have gone through the roof, haha). Very happy with the introduction of OPAL.
  • Good idea- would be nice to have a list of OPAL activities they have access too.
  • Really pleased to see and hear about. Great to see fun equipment outside – kitchens, classrooms, ball games. Thank you – goes over and beyond our expectations.
  • I think its great that families have become involved by donating lots of things. My son donated a large toy and he said he likes seeing others play with it
  • My child is so content at her school, so I’m happy with all staff and procedures within school and at playtime.
  • I believe it may have helped children who may have been lonely or without friends to have more opportunities to join in with a variety of activities.
  • I think its a great idea for everyone
  • I’m thrilled -all staff are amazing
  • Good for older children but feel nursery are too young.
  • Love it!
  • She talks more about playtimes and is always excited when telling us about it.

From the list above there are some things that we can address to continue moving forward.

When we return, I can post a copy of the timetable on here so that you can see which activities are available and maybe discuss them with your child if you wish to do so. These timetables are also posted at most exit points so that the children can always check. However, children will always have free choice and are not told that they can only do those activities. For example, a few weeks ago in the forest we had a Gruffalo theme. Some children engaged in this and others just wanted to explore. This is fine too.

Nursery are included but this has been done in stages and their safety is always paramount. They always wear their wellies and a high viz vest so that they are easily identifiable. Rules and boundaries are put in place and children are kept within the KS1 area or can access their safe space within the EYFS area if they choose to do so. On the yard they have access to the small world, role play, mud kitchen, age appropriate bikes, small trim trail and the small forest. You will also find plenty of staff joining in and playing alongside them too.

There will be a point in which we will invite parents in to experience what an OPAL playtime looks like. We cannot give a date as yet due to the current situation we find ourselves in but we are working on it.

Until then, keep exploring, creating and inventing in your safe spaces. I can’t wait to hear all about your adventures when you all get back.

Week Beginning 02.03.20

This weeks Play Awards go to:

Taiven, Charlie and Nathan – they used their engineering skills to work together as a team to create their amazing go-kart. You really need to check out the photos below to see if. They enjoyed talking about the creation and problems solved when it wasn’t quite working out. They also got Miss Scriven and Mrs Pizl to have a go – but made sure they had their helmets on first for safety.

Detami – she showed compassion when she noticed a younger child looking for someone to play with. She set up a little play area and played alongside and others joined in.

Alfie – he always helps to ensure that our resources are looked after and always wants to assist our play leaders


The year 6 boys who won play awards this week made some amazing go-karts and inspired others to have a go at making a similar one. Take a look:

Some other children had a go at making their own slides. they were able to discuss with me why they used the equipment that they had chosen and how they made sure that they had time to get in safely before sliding down. They had thought of everything. They even experimented with different resources. We have some talented youngsters at Fatfield Academy. Look at how much fun they had.

Opal prize- extended play

This week, classes had an extended play. Most classes brought in either a high ticket item and the other classes brought in the most loose parts. Year 3 will take their main prize at a later date to celebrate gaining the first full house. Thank you all for your support in helping us with this. Teachers also got to come outside and join in with the fun.

Outdoor natural art

Here is one of the reasons why paintbrushes and rollers were on the bingo boards.

Here are some other photos from this week:

We look forward to seeing everyone when they return. Until then, stay safe, look after each other and I’d love to see and hear about all the outdoor fun you have had with your family while you’ve been learning at home. Maybe you could introduce them to playing and creating with loose parts.

Week Beginning 02.03.20

This weeks Play Awards go to:

Lily, Sophia, Annabelle and Elizabeth are amazing to watch at lunchtime. They can often be found in the big forest getting involved in what ever activity is taking place.
Cohen never gives up. He really enjoyed using the flicker at lunchtimes and really wanted to try the bike that didn’t have stabilizers. He found it tricky at first but he never gave up and now he is a pro.
Connor has been an amazing helper at tidy up time. He was also recommended and spotted by several members of staff.


Winners will be announced in assembly on Wednesday but the competition has now ended. However, we will always take items to continually replenish our stock of resources.

Little Forest – Environmental Art

This week in the little forest we have been using natural resources to create art. The children decided that they wanted to make a Gruffalo with Miss Brown. Here is there journey:

Den building in the Big Forest

Miss Fletcher has been working in the forest this week with the children to create dens.


This week we were lucky enough to take delivery of some of the high ticket items from the bingo game. We now have a boat and some large cable reels for the children to play with and use. The children really enjoy playing with this unusual items.

Other photos from this week:

Week Beginning 02.03.20

This weeks Play Awards go to:

Che was also recommended for this award by one of the play leaders. This week is has been lovely to see him in different areas at lunchtime and lovely to see him encouraging others to help look after our school and equipment.

Molly loves helping whenever she can. She loves to be involved in new activities and she can often be found in the forest or hanging upside down on the climbing frame.

Tilly has been a super helper this week in the forest working with others to create the Gruffalo Trail (see photos below) and it looks fantastic.


So far, Year 3 are the only class to claim a full house on their bingo boards. Instant prizes have been claimed by year 1 and year 4. I am aware that some classes have some items ready to be delivered too! How exciting. I would like to take this opportunity to thank you all for your support. The resources come in really handy and i’m sure that you can tell by the photographs that the children are enjoying using them.

Book Week

This week we celebrated World Book Week by adding book themed enhancements within some of the areas to celebrate our love of books.

Big Forest – The Gruffalo

This week in the big forest the children have worked hard with Miss Quinn and Mrs Sinclair to create the most amazing Gruffalo Trail. They worked together and used the resources from the forest to create houses for the different animals in the story. Additionally, the labelled their houses with log slices to make them stand out. If that wasn’t fun enough, Mrs Quinn brought in some character masks and they re-enacted the story around the fire pit.

Little Forest – Aliens love underpants

There were strange goings on in the little forest. There were underpants hanging everywhere and a UFO had crash landed in the trees.

Mud Kitchen – Harry Potter

It was spells galore in the Harry Potter Spell kitchen this week. We had children making spells for all kinds of things and some odd ingredients.

Reading Area – making story stones

Other photographs

Its hard to try and keep the photographs down to a minimum as some of the activities the children get up to are just so fascinating. I love hearing about their creations and how they work; watching the older children and the younger children playing together and watching the experimentation that takes place. Watching a child achieve something new and being proud of themselves makes my day.

Week Beginning 24.02.20

This weeks Play Awards go to:

Mark – for being an all round amazing person. Mark helps everyday and is passionate about his role as a play leader and wants to do the best he can.

Ivy – Ivy has put on her wellies everyday and helped out Miss Fletcher in the forest. It now looks amazing.

Lexi – Lexi gave up her own time to come and help clear our yard so that it is tidy- especially the large construction

Thank you for your support and effort. it doesn’t go unnoticed.


This week we started a whole school competition. It’s difficult to decide if it is the children who are more competitive or the teachers! The challenge involves each class having their own loose parts bingo board and they have to try and collect them all before Friday 13th March to get a full house and then win a prize. Other items can be brought in too as every little helps. There are also prizes for ‘high ticket items’ which add the extra wow factor to our play.

Currently Year 3 is winning with the most items ticked off their board and they also currently have the largest collection. If that isn’t amazing enough, there’s also rumors that they have a few of the high ticket items too! WOW!! Well done year 3. There is still plenty of time for the other classes to try and beat them. I can’t wait to see who gets a full house first.

This week, some of the pupils have been helping to ‘reset’ the forest. We decided it needed a bit of a make over so, so they children and staff worked together and came up with a plan.

In the little forest this week, the children worked with Mrs Johnston to make bird feeds for the birds. It’s nice to help our nature in this unpredictable weather.

Here are some more pictures from this week:

Week Beginning 10.02.20

This weeks Play Awards go to:

Tyler has had positive behaviour outside this week and engaged within activities outside with great enthusiasm. He has been helping Mrs Sinclair with the digging pit everyday and remembering to wear his wellies.

Connor makes some amazing designs and has been helping to tidy up more this week which I am really pleased about. Well done to you both.

This week has been another week of fab creations. One of our play leaders took charge of the camera this week and took lots of photographs of the children playing outside. Unfortunately due to the high winds this week our forest has been closed but hopefully after the half term the weather will be much nicer.

In our play assembly this week we discussed the risks and benefits to using the digging equipment. We discussed how we should use these pieces of equipment safely so that we can get the best results. Some of the children were able to identify that using these tools will hep with hand-eye co-ordination, risk management and muscle development. As you can see from the pictures above, the children enjoyed using them, especially when the mud was wet and gooey as it made it easier to dig holes.

Mark took the opportunity to take lots of selfies with his friends and staff

After half term we will be doing a competition to collect more loose parts so watch this space for more information.


We ask that children keep wellies in school so that they can continue to access all areas regardless of weather and ground conditions. It is very important that shoes are changed outside and not worn within the school to ensure that we keep the school clean and tidy. PE shoes are NOT to be worn as football/outdoor shoes as they are not always appropriate. We do have a small stock of wellies but not as many as we would like.

Week Beginning 03.02.20

This weeks Play Award’s go to Maddison for her fantastic imaginative play in the mud kitchen and Bailey for being really helpful.

This week we had a very special visitor in school. Ingrid from the OPAL team came to see how we were getting on. She was so impressed with what she saw and recognises how much we have changed playtimes for the better. She spent some time discussing with the children about what areas they choose to access and what resources were available etc. She gave us lots of ideas so that we can continue moving forward.

This is absolutely fantastic, well done”


This week also saw a delivery of pallets in school. We tried to move them to the construction idea but the children had other ideas. They thought that they could make some great dens and forts where they were so that’s what they did. Poor Mrs McAlpine accidentally ‘invaded’ their territory and was caught in their trap. Luckily, they realised that she wasn’t a threat and let her go. Take a look at some of the fantastic building work:

Watching the children in this area was inspirational. There has been so much creativity, team work, problem solving and communication between each other. They can’t wait to rebuild again next week and we can’t wait to hear all about it and see what they come up with.

The mud kitchen was also quite popular this week. We had all sorts of fabulous foods being created. Other children were also helping out by digging in the mud pit to supply the mud.

This week has been AMAZING to witness! In fact it has been so amazing that it was hard to keep the number of photographs to a small amount so we uploaded them all instead.

Week Beginning 27.01.20

This week Zack and Jake received our Play Award for their fantastic see-saw that they created using the large pieces of construction. They enjoyed talking about their creating and telling me how they had made it extra safe by adding blocks underneath to stop them bumping on the floor. Their design also inspired others to also create a see-saw.

This week we were able to collect a few more materials for our large construction area and here are some of the creations:

OPAL (Pre-blog)