Did you ever think it's just the boys that play rough, jump high, throw handstands, run fast, climb and scream? If so, read on and discover the transformational effect on girls of taking play really seriously at school.
On Wednesday I heard from Rachel Murray, the school's full time lead for play, when she focused on the effect that the school's play strategy has had on girl's physical activity rates, their confidence and resilience, their social skills, love of learning and happiness.
It was so amazing, I want to just share what Rachel said and then later posted on her school's blog. In reading this I invite you to think about how girl's needs for physical play are supported in your children's school, a school you know or indeed in the parks and community spaces around you.
It's International Women's Day, so a great opportunity to take the time to reflect on how being an OPAL (Outdoor Play and Learning) school and adopting a playwork** approach at Blue Coat has benefited the young women in our school.
There are multiple biological, psychological and social benefits presented to all children through play, but this blog focusses on the improved opportunities for increased activity and physical expression for girls.
The 5 ways to wellbeing' report was researched and developed by the New Economics Foundation, commissioned for the Government's Foresight ‘Mental capital and wellbeing’ project. This research recommended five actions that could be taken to improve mental health and wellbeing; one of these being 'Be Active' and particularly to take part in physical activity that you enjoy.
Five years ago, before we started our journey with OPAL (Outdoor Play and Learning) CiC, play was undeveloped at our school. This didn't mean that girls were not playful, but it did mean that an audit of our play offer showed that girls' play was quite marginalised and muted, and that behaviours such as hiding in the toilets, holding teachers' hands or just waiting for play to finish were evident.
As soon as changes began, the Blue Coat girls immediately responded to all new opportunities with relish! They were hungry for more!
Simple additions like playground chalk, loose parts and active play kit (e.g hula hoops) were snapped up and positively affected play.
When permission was given, girls showed us that they love being upside-down and that some of them had great physical competence when it came to flipping, spinning, cartwheeling and handstanding. Their competence and skills were enjoyed by other children and inspired physical play in others.
Opening up the field for the whole year, rather than just dry, summer days gave girls the space to do 'social balancing'; full body challenges presented through fantastic activities such as human pyramids, tyre dancing and acro-gymnastic displays.
Girls at Blue Coat now have greatly improved opportunities to express themselves physically and go '100% full throttle' if they desire; running as fast as they can, leaping as far as they dare, carrying and dragging large loads of loose parts and riding on tractors!
This all contributes to improved mental health, wellbeing and happiness - as reported to us by them through pupil play surveys.
The embodied joy of these girls is clearly visible in their whole-body expressions, the way they fling wide their arms and smile not just with their faces but with every molecule.
If you want to know more about the OPAL (Outdoor Play and Learning) programme then do contact them through their website or social media:
If you, like us, believe that girls as well as boys should have the full freedom to play in and around school, please sign up to support the Outdoor Classroom Day campaign and get involved in making outdoor play part of every day.
All photos are provided by Blue Coat Primary and cannot be reproduced without their express permission.
** Playwork is an approach whereby adults create the conditions for play to take place. Find out more on the Play England website: http://www.playengland.org.uk/playwork-2/