Schools should look beyond the classroom, urges school playtime expert

Research released for Outdoor Classroom Day reveals that playtime is critical for children’s development

Outdoor Classroom Day – took place Thursday 17 – and saw over 1.7 million children playing and learning outdoors worldwide, over 340,000 of those were here in the UK. The campaign highlights the importance of time outdoors for children during the school day, including playtime.

Research released for Outdoor Classroom Day supports his lifelong philosophy; 97% of teachers questioned believe that outdoor playtime at school is critical for children to reach their full potential. But worryingly, the report also found that children around the country are missing out on playtime due to curriculum pressures (47%), because they are required to finish homework or classwork (38%) and because of poor behaviour in class (43%). This is something Michael hears all too often.

The irony is that all of these issues can be addressed by providing better playtimes. OPAL supports primary schools to dramatically improve the quality of day-to-day playtimes. Consequential benefits the team has witnessed include improvements in lunchtime behaviour, engagement, learning, personal development and physical activity. And Outdoor Classroom Day’s findings support this; teachers in the UK said that, after an outdoor playtime, they saw improvements in engagement with learning (57%), concentration (75%) and behaviour (58%).

Michael Follett, the UK’s leading expert on playtime and director of Outdoor Play and Learning (OPAL) CIC, is pleased to see a light being shone on the importance of playtime in schools, but is now calling on them to commit to making 20% of the school day 100% better.

Michael said: “There is a wealth of evidence that supports the importance of children having time to play and be active, at school and in their everyday lives. And the headteachers we work with through the programme see it too. But too many schools in the UK are failing our children by seeing playtime as a luxury rather than a necessity. It’s time to change this mindset, which is why I’m challenging headteachers around the country to stand up and take notice of the overwhelming evidence that shows the impact that an enriching playtime can have in schools. And this isn’t something extra that they need to fund.

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Schools around the country have funding for sports and physical activity that can cover this. Some even find it a struggle to spend their allocation, which is equal to £350m nationwide.”

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