Sunderland school given prestigious award, placing it in the top two per cent nationally for outdoor learning

A school has been recognised as being in the top two per cent nationally for its outdoor play and learning (OPAL) provision after receiving the prestigious OPAL Platinum Award.

Over the last four years Hill View Infant Academy has revolutionised its break and lunchtime provision with the installation of a range of facilities including tyre mountain, sensory area, construction zone, outdoor gym, mud kitchen, sandpit and even ‘Teletubbie Hill’, which includes slides, tunnels and climbing area.

There’s even a creative zone which includes water play, dressing up and role play, forest school for children to get closer to nature, and a caravan for quiet reading.

The school’s dinner supervisors have also been OPAL trained to provide break and lunchtime games and activities.

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After visiting the school on Helvellyn Road, OPAL inspectors were so impressed with its provision that they awarded the school the highest possible status.

Lead inspector, Mrs Wilkinson said: “Only two per cent of schools in the country have this accolade. You’ve totally transformed your play-times, ensuring all children have access to the most amazing play offer every single day.

"The play offer you have provided to all your children is exemplary.”

Hill View Infant Academy have received the Platinum Award for outdoor play and learning, placing the school in the top two per cent nationally for its provision.

Year 2 teacher Cheryl Knox, who coordinates the provision, said: “Children at this age learn through play and as break and lunchtimes take up 20 per cent of a child’s school day we wanted to enhance our provision during these periods.

"We are really proud as this is an exceptional award for an infant school to receive.”

Lunchtime manager Kelly Lavelle, who leads the OPAL activities, added: “I jumped out of my seat when I heard the news. Children here really do have such a fantastic experience.”

Hill View Infant Academy have won a prestigious award for outdoor learning through play.

Headteacher Claire Smith is “delighted” with the award but even more so with the holistic benefits the facilities have brought to the children’s education.

She said: “OPAL really fits with the ethos of the school which is based around learning through play. It’s all part of why children enjoy coming to school and the lunchtime provision also engages children and reduces incidents of poor behaviour.”

Year 2 pupil Ella Richardson, seven, said: “I really enjoy all the activities and it stops people getting bored.”

Aidan Barker, five, added: “I look forward to coming to school every day and I really like tyre mountain.”

Children learning through play at the Construction Zone.
The caravan which is used for quiet reading.
Over the last four years the school has revolutionised its outdoor play and learning provision.