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Two local schools receive TOPS awards for outstanding outdoor play

Pupils enjoying outdoor play at St Colmcille’s Primary School, Ballymena.

Ten schools across Northern Ireland, including St Colmcille’s Primary (Ballymena), and Moneynick Primary School, Randalstown, are the latest recipients of a quality award in recognition of their outstanding outdoor play offer.

Awarded by PlayBoard NI, the lead organisation for the development of children and young people’s play, the Taking Outdoor Play Seriously (TOPS) Award is presented to schools for their commitment to making their pupils’ outdoor play experience the best that it can be.

St Colmcille’s Primary School, Ballymena.

Commenting on the award, a spokesperson for St Colmcille’s said:

“We were delighted to receive this prestigious award as it recognises the commitment to children’s learning through outdoor play.

“We were one of only ten schools to receive the award this year, and we held a ceremony with officials from PlayBoard NI to showcase our playground and all of the hard work that has gone into transforming it into a space that the children can enjoy!”

Pupils enjoying outdoor play at St. Colmcille’s Primary School, Ballymena.

Moneynick Primary School was also recognised for providing a quality outdoor play environment for the children.

A spokesperson for Moneynick Primary commented:


“Play is an essential part of early learning and we are never too old to play. Children develop cognitive, emotional and physical skills during experimenting with play, allowing their curiosity, problem-solving and confidence to flourish.

“Pupils gain the opportunity to share, show empathy and negotiate with others, embedding verbal and non-verbal communication skills. It is not just play they are developing but skills for life.

“Together with representatives from Playboard NI, pupils, staff and members of our school community we reflected upon our play journey as we celebrated achieving the Taking Outdoor Play Seriously accreditation, one of only 10 schools this academic school year.”

Supported by the Department of Education and facilitated by PlayBoard, the TOPS training programme and quality award supported the schools over the past academic year to develop and transform their external environment to encourage and deliver more outdoor play.

Congratulating the award recipients, Jacqueline O’Loughlin, Chief Executive, PlayBoard said:


“I would like to congratulate the ten schools on achieving PlayBoard’s TOPS Award. This is a significant achievement which demonstrates their dedication and commitment to developing and sustaining outdoor play in their schools, and their enthusiasm for providing quality play opportunities for their pupils.


“TOPS is a whole-school effort so I commend everyone involved in the process including school staff, parents/carers and of course the pupils themselves, for their important input.


“Time playing outside offers many and varied benefits for children and young people and has a critical role in schools. I am delighted the pupils have been enjoying their new and improved play spaces which offer great opportunities for play, learning and fun during the school day.”


Pupils enjoying outdoor play at Moneynick Primary School, Randalstown.

Education Minister Michelle McIlveen said:


“The importance of outdoor play for children’s development cannot be underestimated. It supports children to be physically healthier and undoubtedly has significant mental health and educational benefits. It also allows them to have fun while learning.


“I offer my congratulations to each of the ten schools on achieving the Taking Outdoor Play Seriously Award. It is testament to the commitment and hard work of staff, children and parents. I am pleased that all those involved in this partnership approach have recognised the benefits of outdoor play in our young people’s learning and I look forward to seeing them build on the success of this award.”

TOPS Award recipients:


• Ardnashee School and College, Derry/Londonderry

• Carr Primary School, Lisburn

• Gaelscoil Eoghain, Cookstown

• Gilford Primary School

Moneynick Primary School, Randalstown

• Orangefield Primary School, Belfast

• Poyntzpass Primary School

• Sacred Heart Boys Primary School, Belfast

St. Colmcille’s Primary School, Ballymena

• St. Joseph’s Primary School, Drumquin


A further four schools have recently renewed their TOPS Award for an additional two years, demonstrating their ongoing commitment to quality outdoor play in their school.

TOPS Award renewals:


• Ballymacash Primary School, Lisburn

• Brookfield School, Moira

• Limavady Central Primary School

• Termoncanice Primary School & Nursery, Limavady


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