Michael Follett – OPAL’s founder and director addresses HiAP 2019

HiAP: Delivering Health Equity Tackling Inequalities Conference 2019.

OPAL (Outdoor Play and Learning) have been APPG members since 2014. Neil Coleman reports:

Play is the way all children are naturally programmed to keep active and happy, but over 50% of children are not getting nearly enough outdoor play. Targeting play in schools is a highly cost-effective way to increase activity and well-being. The OPAL Primary Programme has a scalable, repeatable model that enables schools of every kind to dramatically and permanently improve the quality of play. To date it has enabled over half a million children across the UK have happier, better quality, more active playtimes. OPAL’s work is now supporting change in schools in France, Poland, Austria, Czech Republic, Slovak Rep, Hungary, Canada, New Zealand and Australia.

A public health investment on play in schools could significantly improve levels of physical activity and mental well-being for millions of children if it focused on:

  1. Developing a strategic approach to play development
  2. Developing a new post of play coordinator to operationally manage play in schools
  3. Increasing the amount of spaced accessed
  4. Increasing the amount of time space is accessed
  5. Providing simple practical resources to enable better access to grounds
  6. Building a public health message about the value of outdoor free play

If these six points were followed OPAL have proven that children would be happier, have more ‘soft’ skills and be more active.

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