About Us

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Meet the team

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Michael Follett

Michael delivers the OPAL programme in and around Bristol and Bath.

” I am the 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 worked advising the National Trust, the FA and local authorities in applied playwork theory and practice. I have support schools across the world to transform the quality of their play. 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

Neil delivers the OPAL programme across London, the South East and South Midlands.

“I trained alongside Michael to become an accredited OPAL Mentor in early 2013. As well as helping to transform play in schools, I act as an advisor to the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Childhood and have been involved with securing the changes to DFE guidance on allocation of schools funding for play.”

Ana Ardelean

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Ana is a previous playworker, children’s service manager and trainer, current lecturer in Childhood Development and Playwork and play consultant.

Ana’s background is in playwork and front line work with children. She has 15 years of experience working in many different play settings in various countries; nurseries, schools, after school and holiday clubs, playschemes and special needs support services, refugee camps and more. She then moved on to play service management and development, playwork training and consultancy. At the moment she is researching play in refugee children and supporting schools across Yorkshire to improve the state of children’s play. Ana also sits on the trustee board as a treasurer of the International Play Association (England branch).

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Ingrid Wilkinson

Ingrid delvers the OPAL programme in and around Newcastle and the North-East.

“I have a degree in Playwork, formally worked for Play England and am experienced in working with schools and supporting change within organisations. I have worked with over a hundred schools in the North East still love to see the difference great play can make to a school.”

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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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Kurti Birkenbeil

Kurt delivers the OPAL programme in and around Brighton, the south coast, Kent, Sussex, Hampshire and South London.

“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 diverse player offers on every school day! “

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Kate Smith

Kate delivers the OPAL programme to schools in the far south-west in and around Devon, Dorset and Somerset. Kate has a Masters degree in playwork from The University of Gloucestershire. She works as a playworker in an adventure playground and has experience of working in primary schools

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Linda Naccarato

Linda Naccarato is from Toronto. She 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. Linda is happy to work with schools in the Toronto area delivering the Canadian version of the OPAL programme.

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

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United Nations Convention