A SCHOOL which has transformed playtime into a time for adventure and imagination had picked up a gold award for its efforts.

Around two years ago Rosa Street Primary School, in Spennymoor, began to expand its play offer so children did not just have traditional sports on the yard.

It extended the grounds and demolished a wall to open up a paddock and created a covered sandpit, mud kitchen, den building and dressing up areas– much of it with items donated by families.

Headteacher Helen Ashton said: “We wanted to teach children how to play, purposeful play is good for language, listening, speaking and cooperation skills.

“Children use their imagination, develop problem solving skills and learn to work together and with different children to usual.

“In school we see what a difference it has made, one child who rarely spoke started communicating and behaviour issues have reduced significantly over time. Playtime is a real incentive, they work hard because they want to go out to play and then come back in ready to learn.

"Antisocial behaviour from outside the school is a bit of a problem and we hope by showing pupils how to think creatively to entertain themselves and to respect the school they will be responsible citizens.”

Before the school broke up for the summer holidays, children invited families to see their exciting play opportunities and to celebrate as the school was presented with an OPAL gold award.

Ingrid Wilkinson, North East schools play advisor with OPAL (Outdoor Play and Learning) which supports primary schools to enhance play, said: "Kids have dreams, this is where we find our doctors and pilots, if we can support that we are really helping our children.

"Play helps them with problem solving, risk assessing, developing resilience, we want them to be leaders, competitive, have confidence to believe in themselves– that is what getting play right does.

"The school that recognises play is invaluable is waving a flag, improving health, increasing social skills, physical activity, they come back into school much more ready to learn and because they've achieved something at playtime they don't give up, they persevere."