Boris Johnson attends ceremony to mark school’s playful achievement

While others are cutting school breaktimes to make way for more lessons, this Uxbridge school is harnessing the power of playtimes

Monday 10 June: Boris Johnson MP joined staff, pupils and parents at Hermitage Primary in Uxbridge on Friday at a ceremony to mark their achievement in making playtimes a key part of the school day. The school received a Platinum Award for their completion of the Outdoor Play and Learning (OPAL) primary programme – an award-winning1 mentor supported school improvement programme that addresses all the areas that schools must plan for to strategically and sustainably improve the quality of playtimes.
Research shows that play contributes to children’s physical and emotional health, wellbeing, resilience, approach to learning and enjoyment of school. Given the importance of play in children’s lives and current concerns about children’s physical activity levels, mental health and educational attainment, there are considerable benefits for children and schools to making playtime a key part of the school day. Despite this, a recent report from UCL’s Institute of Education found that school breaktimes are being squeezed. Hermitage Primary Headteacher Elaine D’Souza said:
“OPAL has revolutionised playtimes at our school. Children are so engaged that behaviour incidents have reduced by 80 per cent. Children who don’t like participating in group sports are running around the playground and taking the lead in games. We are delighted to receive our Platinum OPAL award and to have welcomed Boris Johnson to Hermitage to witness the power of outdoor playtimes – I believe that Government has an important role to play in setting the standards for school breaktimes.”
OPAL was developed by the organisation’s founder, Michael Follett, who is the UK’s most experienced expert on school playtimes. Michael said:
“Hermitage Primary is a shining example of what can be achieved when staff, children and parents work together to make playtimes better. I believe that improving playtimes is the key to improving the quality of life for every child in the UK – and it doesn’t have to cost a penny more than is already in existing budgets. Schools currently spend £400 million on supervising playtimes, but the job is a policing role, not a productive one. If every school created a lead post of play coordinator to take a strategic approach to playtime, children and teachers would reap the benefits.”