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Our Vision

OPAL, which stands for Outdoor Play and Learning, is the philosophy our school follows at lunchtimes.

We have seen just how much of an impact improving play can make to a school. We are not just talking about playtimes being a bit less bother or about children being a bit happier. We are talking about cultural transformation.

When you address a need, that is so fundamental to the physical and mental wellbeing of children as play, and you do it well, it is impossible to think back and understand how we ran a school and didn’t do this.

Our vision is that every child in our school has an amazing hour of high quality play every day – with no exceptions. 

If one child is not enjoying playtimes, then things still need improving. We want to resource and evaluate the quality of our play provision, as it is not only an important human right, but is essential to all aspects of children’s development - and play is a source of joy and happiness that every child can access. 


St Philip Howard Play Policy

2. SPH Play Policy.pdf

Outdoor Play and Learning website.


Types of Play 

Did you know that there are 16 different types of play? They can be categorised into 4 sub sections;

  • Learning about the physical world, 
  • Learning about ourselves and how to be in the world,
  • Learning about our bodies and limits, 
  • Learning about what it is to be human 

Even when we play, we are learning. It's such an important part of the school day.

Furthermore, play supports self-regulation as a key developmental mechanism: this ability is increasingly shown to be vital to academic success.  That's why, at St Philip Howard, OPAL is so important!

Our Play Team have recently been learning about each type of play and how we are going to make it even better at SPH!


OPAL 2023-2024

Autumn Term 2023 has started with a boom! Follow along on our play journey...




Forest Update

May 2024 


Mrs Mrbate, has been working hard to make the forest a fun and exciting place to play at lunchtime. The children have been asking her for help with their dens, and flags for their pirate ship. She has also been clearing the growth to make extra hide always.

Thank you very much Mrs Mrbate for being a great member our play team. 























































Our Nature Pond

April 2024

Over the Easter holidays we had the wonderful Terry and Glen from Pond Designs come in and dig the beautiful nature pond, which they have designed for us. The local fire brigade came to fill it up, much to the children's entertainment.  

Thank you to Mrs Chamberlain and Mrs Field for sorting out the finances and starting the ball rolling. 







Sandpit Update 

March 2024 

From one wet bog to brand new play sand. After many failed attempts, the sand pit has been re-filled just in time for the summer. 







Play Club 

February 2024 

One very windy Tuesday, Play Club made kites from recycled items. 



Den Building

January 2024

A New Year, a new experience! The children have been using the loose parts to construct their own dens.  





Play Club

December 2023

Mrs Hulley and Mrs Hale have started a play club. It's a great place to learn extra social skills, new games and just the best opportunity for being the great outdoors. 

Keep your eye out for your Play Club letter. 





The Great Wellington Boot Swap!

November 2023

We held our first welly swap- it was a huge success! Every child who brought in wellies went home with a 'new' pair. We also had lots of very kind donations of wellingtons which are now in the scooter shed for the children to use. If you need a pair please speak to Mrs Hulley, Mrs Hale or the school office and we will be able to help.





Water Play

October 2023

Splish, Splash! The water areas has been a favourite this month with the children making potions and filtering water.




Play Survey Results

September 2023

Our end of year play survey results were very positive:

34.2% There can sometimes be things I might learn about myself from carefully taking a risk. 

36.3% I know that, so long as i think seriously, taking a measured risk when i play can help me grow as a person 

45.9% I enjoy some playtimes and do not enjoy others. 

47.9% I really enjoy nearly all of my playtime.

36.3% There is plenty of stuff around for me to  play with if  I want to make up a game or build something. 

39% There are enough things to use if I want to make a game or build something. 

45.2% Play Times have changed for the better. 


OPAL at SPH 2022-2023

Platinum Award Presentation

14th July 2023 

What a great day! despite the weather, we still managed to celebrate our platinum OPAL award, presented by the Mayor. Amongest the dignitaries were Neil from OPAL, a representative from ARISE, Durkan, Welwyn Hatfield Council and the SPH governors. Big thank you to everyone involved, Colin and Carol, Mrs Turley and all of the Play team!






On your marks, Get Set, GO!!

June 2023

Over half term, our lovely Colin put together our shed and remarked our playground!! The track has been a huge success with the children using it for their daily run. During lunch the scooters have been a huge success! Lots of our children do not own or couldn't ride a scooter and by Friday were whizzing around the track!



An Afternoon with Arise 

June 2023

Mrs Hale and Mrs Turley went along to the wonderful Hatfield House and enjoyed a sunny afternoon tea to commemorate ARISE Hatfield celebrating over £100,000 in donations to 130 charities and groups in Hatfield. 

Arise have helped fund our Mud Kitchen and new scooter track!








The Staff played too!! 

May 2023 

May was a busy month for Opal! Mrs Hulley led staff training this month too, All the staff were given an update on our OPAL mission. Then the staff got to experience what lunchtime is like for the children - and had to play with each other. 







We held a parents Stay and Play.

May 2023

It was great to see so many parents and children playing together. The children loved showing the parents what they enjoy doing at lunchtimes. 




May 2023

Mrs Waugh and Mrs Hulley test drove the scooters at lunch time today! It was very exciting for everyone! 

They had to wear their helmets; NO HELMET - NO RIDE. 

The Climbing Wall 

April 2023

The climbing wall was put in during the Easter Hoilday's its been very popular! 



The SPH Mud Café and Digging Area is open for business!

13th March 2023




Day One of  The Mud Kitchen was a huge success! 



The mud kitchen was ready for its first visitors this week (6th March). Each class was given time to explore the new addition; discuss and decide on some guidelines to keep everyone safe before we open it for free play at lunch time next week! Wellie boots are a MUST! 

A special thank you to 3H for helping to create the digging area!!


The Prayer Garden

March 2023








The Prayer Garden has had some TLC after a long, wet winter! A new layer of woodchip and some pruning means the garden is back open for classes to visit during class worship and R.E lessons. At lunchtimes it offers a quiet space where you really feel nature. It is a place to reflect, a place to pray.

Mrs Halsey's bench offers a lovely place to sit. "This is the bench where you are welcome to sit, look at the garden and reflect for a bit. These are the plants which bloom and grown just like the children in the playground below." - Mrs Halsey (1957-2012)


Spring is finally on it's way!

March 2023




The fruit trees also got a new covering of wood chip and the buds are finally starting to push through!

Our five fruit trees make a great addition to the field. The cherry tree was planted in commemoration of the Queen's Platinum Jubilee. It's planting was part of a special service where the Deputy Lord Lieutenant, Marion Brown MBE,  dedicated the tree as apart of the Queen's Canopy which started our Jubilee celebrations!

Our hope is that the trees will continue to grow, produce fruit and offer shelter for years to come.


Mud Kitchen Pending

February 2023

The Play Team have been working hard over the last month to get the Mud kitchen up and running!





Panning for Gold! 

January 2023


The search for gold has been popular with all the children. The children really thought they had hit the jackpot, unfortunately we had to break the sad news that our gold doesn't have a high retail price.

Special thanks to Mrs Mrbate who painted each individual gold stone!


Our Wonderful Forest!

January 2023





We are very lucky to have such a wonderful forest that the children use for Forest School. We have opened up the unused end of the forest for free play at lunchtimes. It's become a land of; dens, mythical and magical creatures, homes, castles, burrows and holds explorations into mystical lands. 

The addition of our first tyre swing is always in high demand. Even Mrs Hulley and Mrs Hale enjoyed testing its strength!



December 2022

Mrs Hulley and Mrs Hale spent many hours after school together; applying for grants to help make our school community a better place. 

They were successful!

"ARISE Hatfield was set up to provide an annual fund of money to support local initiatives and socially based activities that enhance the lives of those living in Hatfield."

We are going to use the grant to develop our mud kitchen and hopefully our wheeled track. 

Arise Hatfield

Our Play Charter

November 2022

Copy of St Philip Howard Play Charter.pdf


The Welly Boot Post & 'Where the lost things go' bin. 

November 2023

The wellie boot post shows everyone, if wellie boots are needed on the field, or on really raining days if the field is shut completely! The forest sign shows if the children can make their way across the muddy field to still play in the forest.




OPAL at SPH 2022


This video was recorded across a Friday lunchtime at St Philip Howard.





The SPH Beach 


Have a look at how much fun our children get from our new sandpit




Survey Results

SPH Teachers 

How important do you think playtime is for our children?

  • 11 - Extremely Important 
  • 3- Very Important 

Currently, what do you think about the levels of confidence, resilience and problem-solving skills you are observing in the children at our school?

  • Not very good.
  • I would say good. 
  • Could improve
  • Good 
  • Tragic 
  • A lot of silly quarrels over nothing really. Lots of tale telling too. Children seem to be confident
  • I'm not sure if they understand who to approach when they really need to seek help.
  • Quite poor in some instances....... some children are over confident with the less confident 
  • I believe it has decrease over the years 
  • Very good 
  • The lack of opportunities brought about by the recent pandemic affected the confidence, resilience and problem solving skills of the children. School assemblies, after school clubs that used to help children develop their skills and confidence have not been accessible for quite sometime now. This could have contributed to a lot of frustrations we see from the children nowadays.
  • Very low, especially since Covid restrictions that put up boundaries and lots of rules.

If school could improve the play opportunities they offer, what types of things would you like to see and why?

  • Different stations of play 
  • To inform all staff on all rules 
  • I love the opal idea so i'm excited about that 
  • Better scooters more trikes and cars 
  • Designated dress/ up pretend play 
  • More toys more balls, sandpit, construction 
  • More toys , indoor games 
  • Provide random objects to instigate play and imagination 
  • More balls 
  • Improved play area - as football has always been a very popular playtime game, a dedicated football area where children can play all year round.
  • Equipment that could be used for different purposes to develop role play.
  • Choices. Something to play other than football. Something that got children from different year groups playing together.
  • Exploration, imaginative play, building dens, camps.


SPH Parents

How important do you think playtime is for your child?

  • Very Important - 62
  • Quite Important - 2 

Do you think children have the same opportunities to play?

  • The playground is a lot better than the one i had at school, 
  • We are still facing the effects of the pandemic, i believe play would not be as enjoyable as it used to be, 
  • Our country not like uk, all year we can play outside but in uk our kids mostly staging inside the house, 
  • When I was a kid we were allowed to go in the streets and play kirby or just out on our bikes, but now it's just too dangerous for it. 
  • Because I used to play outside with other children’s living in proximity estates of mine. 
  • More digital distraction, family too busy with life. 
  • Health and safety is crazy and everything is classed as too dangerous. 
  • In Africa where I grew up the weather was hot everyday so we could play outside. 
  • Children stay inside too much here 
  • I think the world is more scary for them to be outside by themselves and weekdays are so busy for us all to do much. 
  • It was safer when I was growing up. After coming home from school I used to drop my bags and go outside to play with my friends. I do not think it's safe anymore and therefore time outdoors depends on parents ability to find time, which is not possible daily once working full time.
  • Stranger safety. 
  • They are much more familiar with the ipads. 
  • Too much time on devices, 

If school could improve the play opportunities they offer, what types of things would you like to see and why?

  • Olympic sports, More sheltered seating areas, Bigger play gym, Big chess, More opportunities to join social teams, More nets, Swings, Cricket games, Undercover play, longer play so they are not in such a rush to eat there food, more games painted on the ground, gardens to tend, maybe chickens to care for, drawing and painting , gardening club, legos and puzzles, daily mile, more time to play, more competitive house games, During playtime, the teacher could see the more humanistic side of a child.
  • I'm thrilled that the school are trying to expand 
  • Whatever school can afford at this time is perfectly fine 
  • Im a strong advocate for outdoor play 
  • I think this is fantastic what St Philip Howard is doing with OPAL. Really focusing on our children’s happiness and mental wellbeing is amazing and so important. Well done to you all and thank you.
  • I feel the school has provided better opportunities for my children from when I was there, due to the fact of more modern equipment.
  •  Both of my children play lovely with others all the time.
  •  Plus of the skills that they have learnt like climbing and going to Forest School.
  • My child is under the impression that there is never a spare basketball to play with so you have to play football even if you don’t feel like it :)

SPH Children

  • We get to play everywhere on certain days only -125 Children think this
  • We get to use the whole site at every playtime all year round -39 Children think this
  • We hardly ever get to play anywhere we want, including in the other playground - 63 Children think this.
  • All of the adults at my school tell me the same thing about what I can and can't do at playtimes - 37 Children think this
  • Different adults at school tell me different things about what I can and can't do at playtimes - 105 Children think this
  • Most of the adults tell me the same things about what I can and can't do at playtimes - 85 Children think this
  • I think the adults at our playtimes could do more to make play times more enjoyable-108 Children think this
  • I think the adults at our playtimes help us have a really great playtime -68 Children think this
  • I think the adults at play times mainly stop us doing things - 51 Children think this
  • Depending on how good playtime has been, my concentration when I get back in class varies -102 Children think this
  • Playtimes always leave me feeling ready to learn when I get back to the classroom-88 Children think this
  • Playtimes can leave me struggling to concentrate when I get back into class -37 Children think this