WELCOME TO OPAL

Play Development Consultancy

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I established OPAL to work with schools, providers, councils, companies and organisations to improve all aspects of children’s opportunities to play and learn outdoors. OPAL has a proven track record of making primary school playtime better, helping with behavior management and supporting clients get to get more value from playground equipment through good quality playscape design.

Our services enable our clients to understand what children need, what they are doing well already and how they can plan and design all aspects of improvements in play. OPAL is founded on a history of innovation and success in creating lasting and significant change. Two of my innovations which have gone on to have a national impact are the setting up the first Community Play Rangers project in 2003 for Bath and North East Somerset Council, and the co-founding of the PlayPods with Children’s Scrapstore in Bristol in 2006. Recently OPAL have been commissioned to create beautiful and innovative play landscapes for all three of Bristol’s ‘Early Years Excellence’ Children’s Centres. Michael Follett OPAL Director

Michael Follett, OPAL founder and director

Experience:
I have worked with many institutions on developing a strategic and policy based approach to improving play. In addition to my eleven years spent at Bath and North East Somerset Council and South Gloucestershire Council, I have worked in an advisory capacity for The National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE), The National Trust, The National Lottery, The Ministry of Justice, Play England (National Children’s Bureau) and the Football Association (FA).

  • Director of OPAL
  • Qualified Primary Teacher PGCE Early Years
  • Qualified Playworker
  • Six years as schools’ play adviser within South Gloucestershire Council school improvement team
  • Five years as Play Strategy Officer for Bath and North East Somerset Council
  • Elected trustee of national charity Play England
  • Twelve years as public speaker, writer, trainer on play
  • Play adviser to the National Trust and the FA

My early work in schools focused on how adults could get children to play differently, through interventions like behaviour management and playground games. As I have worked in depth with over 100 primary schools over the past eleven years this approach has evolved. Now my starting point is not the children but the adults, as they define the school’s culture and its ability to understand and support play. The journey of cultural change is exciting and empowering for schools and is the secret to progress which can be sustained long after mentoring and support ends.

I have used my studies of play environments in schools, public spaces and children’s settings across the UK and in Germany, Sweden and Denmark to develop a simple and universal approach to creating high quality play landscapes which I have applied to the design of new school grounds, major housing developments, new public spaces, parks projects, children’s centres and early years settings.

I have worked developing innovative design briefs for major developments including; the ground breaking Hanham Hall in Bristol, Kingsgate Park in Yate and Jubilee Green in Bradley Stoke and new schools and children’s centres in South Gloucestershire. In 2011 I completed a commission for the National Trust to write their design brief for play, and currently am working closely with the Trust on the development of play opportunities at several properties.