About Us

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Meet the team

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Michael Follett

Founder and Director of OPAL. My previous experiences in playwork, primary school teaching and school improvement services have enabled me to create the OPAL Primary Programme.  I have have worked advising the National Trust, the FA and local authorities in applied playwork theory and practice. My ambition is that every school child in the UK can access an hour of amazing play every day at school.

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Neil Coleman

OPAL Midlands is a regional office of OPAL, established in the Home Counties to give easier access and support for schools, early years settings and organisations located in the London, East and South-East area of England. Neil Coleman, who runs OPAL Midlands, trained alongside Michael to become an accredited OPAL Mentor in early 2013. Neil is able to offer all OPAL services..

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Brenda Simon

Brenda Simon from Play by Nature in Toronto Canada trained in the UK to become an OPAL Mentor. Play by Nature are setting up pilot schemes to adapt the OPAL Primary Programme for the Canadian school system and to promote a strategic approach to play development throughout public policy.

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Emma Lawrence

Emma Lawrence from Nature Play Solutions in Perth Western Australia has trained as an OPAL Mentor in the UK and in two pilot schools in Perth. The aim of the project is to adapt the OPAL Primary Programme for the Australian school system.

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Ingrid Wilkinson

I have a degree in Playwork, formally worked for Play England and am expereinced in working with schools and supporting change within organisations

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Ellie Davidson

Ellie Davidson from Upper Hutt Council in Wellington New Zealand is running a pilot project with Paparangi Primary School to redevelop the schools approach to outdoor play using the OPAL Programme for Primary Schools.

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Rachel Murray

Rachel Murray is a trainee OPAL mentor in Gloucestershire. Rachel is also the Play Coordinator at Blue Coat Primary school in Wotton under Edge. Over the last five years she has worked within the school, supporting play at both a strategic and operation level, earning the UK’s first 100% OPAL Platinum level audit in July 2019 and two national Playwork Awards. Rachel was the national winner of the Inspiring Educator Award at the annual Learning Outside the Classroom Awards 2016.
Previously to her work with OPAL and Blue Coat, Rachel was Director of Learning at the At-Bristol science centre (now called We the Curious).

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Kurt Birkenbeil

Feeling passionate about the power of play ever since I climbed on board of a Playbus, back in 1998 in Hamburg, to work with refugee children. They had no common language but I witnessed how the power play brought them together in joy. Since then I have studied Playwork (University of Brighton, FDA), promoted and provided for Article 31, the Children’s Right to Play in social hotspots, schools for children with additional needs, run mobile summer community play programs and free play centred family days for children and their imprisoned fathers at HMP Lewes. After running Brighton and Hove City Council’s Playbus for a decade I joined in 2016 the play forces with Michael Follett & OPAL. If only both my boys could have enjoyed an OPAL school. I feel deeply grateful to make a difference to an ever growing number of school children enjoying and benefiting from rich and divers player offers on every school day!

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Linda Naccarato

Linda Naccarato from Earth Day Canada in Toronto, Canada became Canada’s second certified OPAL mentor in 2017. With a background in art and environmental education, Linda brings a passion for creative learning and community engagement to her work with the OPAL program. Currently, Linda oversees the program in over 25 schools in the Toronto region.

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Kate Smith

Awards

Fitsport award (2)

INTERNATIONAL FIRST PRIZE AWARD

Playwork Awards 2019

NATIONAL AWARDS

UKACtive Finalist

UK Active 2018 Finalist

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Erasmus+

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Airbus

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Earth Day Canada

Socail Enterprise

Social Enterprise

UN

United Nations Convention