Today (Wednesday 15th June) saw four local Primary Schools – Termoncanice PS (Limavady), Rathcoole PS (Belfast), St. Pauls PS (Belfast) and Holy Evangelist PS (Dunmurry) – receive the PlayBoard TOPS (Taking Outdoor Play Seriously) Quality Assurance Award for outdoor play in schools.

The award, developed and overseen by PlayBoard – the lead organisation for play in Northern Ireland – recognises the significant work and commitment shown by the schools to transforming their outdoor space and playgrounds into innovative and creative playspaces; play spaces that are not only more fun to play in, but spaces that support and enhance children’s learning, growth and development through play.

Over the past academic year the TOPS programme has been working to support staff, pupils and parents from each of the schools to introduce new and more varied types of play. This has led to the introduction of a whole range of new play activities during lunch and break times including messy play and mud kitchens, dressing-up, loose parts play, junk play, arts and crafts and much more!

Rathcoole TOPS: Video 1

Rathcoole TOPS: Video 2

Speaking at the award event which took place at Stranmillis University College, PlayBoard Chair Patricia Lewsley-Mooney said:

Today is a significant one for each of the schools involved. In receiving the TOPS award each has shown a commitment to providing their pupils with innovative and creative outdoor play opportunities; play opportunities that support and enhance education and skills development whilst improving health and wellbeing”. 

Explaining the background to the award, Alan Herron PlayBoard Director of Service Delivery and Development said:

“The TOPS award developed out of PlayBoard’s experience of delivering in schools which highlighted the need for an intensive programme to support schools to introduce new, innovative play activities and make better use of their outdoor space.”

“Play is one of the main ways children learn about the world around them.  Play is natural and instinctive, it allows children to test their abilities and to learn and develop new skills and knowledge.  As such play has a critical role in schools – offering an outlet for expending energy during break times, contributing to learning through the curriculum and improving health and wellbeing.”

In presenting the awards Patricia said:

“I would like to pay tribute to the hard work and belief of the school staff, pupils and parents who have enabled such a significant transformation of play to take place; the quality playtimes the pupils now enjoy are testimony and reward for their work.”