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OPAL work in partnership with London Sport in hundreds of primary schools
OPAL work in partnership with London Sport in hundreds of primary schools

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Mental Health Awareness Week: OPAL

There is no shortage of evidence to the fact that physical activity can have a hugely positive impact on the mental health and wellbeing of adults and children.

Improved mood and a decreased chance of depression and anxiety are just two of the mental benefits that being physically active can bring to Londoners.

Throughout the past 12 months, with the covid-19 pandemic, multiple lockdowns and serious disruption to their schooling, the mental health of young people has been particularly affected.

In January, charity Young Minds found that 67% of young people believed that the pandemic will have a long-term negative effect on their mental health.

So, for Mental Health Awareness Week, London Sport are looking at community physical activity and sport organisations that focus on supporting mental wellbeing as well as physical health.

OPAL (Outdoor Play And Learning)

OPAL helps schools transform the way they think about and plan for play. They work with primary schools to create happier playtimes, better play-spaces and enable staff to support outdoor learning.

Research shows that play contributes to children’s physical and emotional health, well-being, approach to learning, and enjoyment of school.

OPAL work in partnership with London Sport in hundreds of primary schools and embodies our principles around co-design and working to maximise existing facilities and resources.

No childhood should be without lots of great play and improving play at school can cost-effectively reach every child and have an impact every day.

What They Do

Ivydale Primary School in Southwark had been enrolled in the OPAL Primary Program for a year before the start of the pandemic and had made great progress in improving the play offer.

The school had already noticed what a positive impact the improvements to children's wellbeing the improved playtimes was having, many more children, especially girls, were much more engaged in their play.

Schools enrolled in the OPAL Primary Programme to ensure that play is not just a break in the day but is approached as being as important as a curricular subject with leadership, planning, resourcing, training and evaluation.

When the pandemic hit, it was clear that, for the children attending the school, the play opportunities the school was able to offer were even more important than before. It was their only chance to play outside with other children. 


The senior leadership at the school acknowledge that it has been very hard work trying to ensure children continued to have as many high-quality outdoor free play opportunities but that it has been worthwhile.

Through their play children had an outlet to be children and experience the many benefits to the mind and body that only play can provide.

Success Stories

A pupil said: 

"Playtime is just so much fun and I get to be with my friends making dens and dressing up. It makes me feel happy."

A parent said: 

"Most parents just want their children to be happy. The school have made sure fun and happiness and playfulness have continued to be part of my children's life throughout the past year. "

A member of the Senior Leadership Team added:

"We are a school that had already invested a lot of effort in improving our play provision and before covid-19 we had already seen how this improves children's enjoyment of school and their behaviour.

"I think that during the pandemic this became even more clear to us. For our children to have somewhere to come where they could experience fun, challenging and social outdoor play, was not a nice extra but a very important part of maintaining their physical and mental wellbeing."

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Anil Manji

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London Sport aims to ensure Londoners live happier, healthier lives through sport and physical activity

About London Sport

London Sport aims to ensure more Londoners live happier, healthier lives through sport and physical activity. Supported by the Mayor of London and Sport England, our target is to get Londoners more physically active.

For more information on London Sport, visit www.londonsport.org

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