A Swindon school is the first primary in the town to win the highest national award for its playground.

Holy Family Catholic Primary and Nursery School won a platinum Outdoor Play and Learning (OPAL) in May after making a series of outdoor play improvements.

The award was presented to the school in a special assembly.

OPAL is an organisation that provides an improvement programme for schools to improve their play areas. Awards - silver, gold or platinum - are given to those that succeed at this programme.

The programme promises to improve children’s mental health and wellbeing, make playtimes more fun and develop communication, respect, honesty and friendship through play.

The school already reports increased pupil happiness and activity, a reduction in negative behaviour issues and an improved return to classroom for afternoon lessons.

Playground improvements include a large sandpit, dens, wheeled boards and a mud kitchen.

The sandpit was gifted by local building company Lovell Partnerships Ltd last year.

The firm came from a nearby building site to build the “massive beach sandpit” in just a week.

They have introduced three water butts and have also added a music system where the children can choose what music they would like to hear from a pre-approved playlist.

Children and teachers have been provided with wet-weather clothing to support all weather play and a central fort structure is now open to all children.

OPAL observed children “digging in the massive 'beach' sandpit, physically challenging themselves by tree climbing, cartwheeling, swinging and dancing, playing football and tennis, performing in a rock band, cooking in the mud kitchen, riding go-karts, painting and chalking.”

The transformation began in September 2022 when Holy Family started on the OPAL programme.

Now OPAL reported: “All pupils are always engaged and the playground had a happy and inclusive party atmosphere.”

Holy Family shared: “We are so incredibly proud of all of the staff, children, governors and families who have made this possible and a special thank you to the OPAL team Mrs Woodfield, Mrs Coates, Mrs Struve, Mrs Dunn our parent champion and Mrs McGrogan our governor.”

Roxy Woodfield, OPAL play leader, said: “Opal has transformed playtimes for all of our children they are now able to be creative, take risks and overall have fun. 

“We are very proud of the journey we have been on and the huge success we have had in such a short time. 

“We would like to thank everyone in our school community for their ongoing support.”