Our Accomplishments

OPAL as Best Practice

 In April 2011 OPAL was used as an example of good practice in a memorandum by Skills Active and Play England to the Parliamentary Education Committee and by the All Party Parliamentary Group on a Fit and Health Childhood Report in Oct 2014


2015 Project Highlights

Nov – OPAL Director Michael Follett speaking at Natural Connections conference at Plymouth University
Sept – OPAL starting the OPAL Primary Programme with 14 schools in Durham and Newcastle

2014 Project Highlights

Nov – OPAL staff will attend the Children Now 2014 award ceremony in London having been shortlisted in the play category.
Nov – OPAL Director to present keynote speech at primary head teachers conference at Sandbanks in Poole, Dorset.
Oct – The All Party Parliamentary Group on Fit and Healthy Childhood cite OPAL as ‘convincing and articulate champions’ for play.
Sept – OPAL Director working with Nature Play Solutions to establish OPAL Australia
May – Keith Towler Children’s Commissioner for Wales describes OPAL’s work in schools as ‘very impressive’.
May –  OPAL Director speaker at the world International Play Association conference – Istanbul Turkey
May – OPAL schools programme started in two Bristol, one Welsh and one London school.
May – Training day on play provided for the FA Elite Academy coaches- St George’s Park FA National Training Centre
April -OPAL mentor training week provided for visiting professionals from Toronto Canada
March – OPAL Director booked as speaker at National Playwork Conference – Eastbourne
Feb – OPAL Director booked as speaker for the National Trust annual conference – Chatsworth House
Feb – OPAL Director booked as presenter at national playworkers training on play in schools for Play Wales
Jan – OPAL Director invited to be play adviser to the FA (Football Association)
Jan – Start first OPAL programme in a Devon primary

2013 Project Highlights

Dec – OPAL Midlands officially opens
Nov – Provide training for National Trust Staff in NE, NW and SW. Appointed play adviser to 2 Nat Trust houses.
Sept-Oct  Keynote Speaker at 3 national conferences for Childspace New Zealand
July – Design and build play and learning landscape for Kingfisher School, Bristol
June – Keynote speaker ‘Caring for the Caretaker’ conference. Bristol
June – Start OPAL programme in 3 Tyneside primaries
May – Keynote speaker – ‘Play and Learning Landscapes’ Early Educators Convention – New Zealand
April – Design and develop large play landscape for Compass Point Children’s Centre in Bristol
Mar – Visiting Consultant Trainer – Children’s Oasis Nurseries Dubai United Arab Emirates
Mar – Featured speaker- National Playwork Conference UK.
Feb – Featured speaker – ‘Agency, play process and design’ US Play Coalition Clemson University, North Carolina
Feb – Design & develop birth-to-two playscape for Brentry and Henbury Early Excellence Children’s Centre, Bristol
Jan – Design adviser for new playground development. St Mary’s Parish Primary Soho, London
Jan – Design & develop baby & toddler playscape, Ilminster Ave Children Centre Early Excellence Centre, Bristol

2012 Project Highlights

Bath and North East Somerset Council – Sponsor Dads’ and Fire workshops in primary schools to support ‘year of the father’. (see picture above)

Bristol City Council – Three more Bristol schools enroll for full OPAL programme. Ashely Down Primary, Victoria Park Primary, St Bonadventure Primary

USA Massachusettes – First US OPAL mentor trainee. Retired professor of early years education Diana Suskind

Ashely Down Primary School – Designed new school grounds in partnership with Skanska

World Forum On Design Conference California – OPAL keynote speech

Soho Parish Primary – First London school to enroll in OPAL

Middleton Moor Primary – First school in the NW to enroll in OPAL

Knowle Park Primary – Largest Primary to enroll in OPAL

Wansdyke Play Association – Training one new OPAL Mentor

Frome Somerset – Three schools in OPAL programmes including first middle school. Oakfield Academy, Rhode Primary, Nunney Primary

National Trust – Design Brief for Play, Property Managers Training

Bath and North East Somerset Council – OPAL programme for five schools. Twerton Juniors, Castle Primary, St Nicholas Radstock, Oldfield Juniors, Chanda Infants

Wiltshire Council – Accreditation of two OPAL Mentors

Bristol City Council – Design and programme management of two play gardens for Knowle West Children’s Centre

North Somerset Council – OPAL programme for Yeo Moor Primary School

South Gloucestershire Council – OPAL programme for Broadway Infants School,   Dads and Fire parental engagement workshops for five schools





June 2014

“The OPAL programme has helped St Stephens’ Primary School transform our children’s access to great play opportunities every day. I would recommend the OPAL programme for other schools who are genuinely committed to making sure all children get access to great outdoor play (and Article 31 of the UNCHR) and would be happy to endorse OPAL’s entry for the Children and Young People Now award for Play.”
Pete Mounstephen – Head Teacher St Stephen’s Primary Bath, Chair of the National Primary Heads (NPH) Association


June 2014

” Victoria Park Primary began working with Michael Follett and Outdoor Play and Learning in January 2013.  In the eighteen months that followed, we have completely transformed the lunchtime experience and embedded play within the culture of the school… I highly recommend using OPAL to any school seeking to develop play opportunities for their children.”
Jack Lacey – Headteacher Victoria Park Primary Bristol


May 2014 OPAL Midlands – Neil Coleman

” From the beginning our OPAL Mentor has been professional, well-informed and supportive. A particularly effective feature of the mentoring process was the initial site baseline audit.  It was so helpful to walk around at a lunchtime/playtime with an informed ‘outsider’ and talk about what was happening. Throughout the process of action planning and staff training, Neil has proven to be an excellent mentor.”   Claire Fletcher – Executive Head North Walsham Junior, Infant School and Nursery


Jan 2014

Dear Michael
Your presentation, workshops and presence on Friday were everything we wanted from you – many thanks!
“Inspiration….inspiring…..direction…..” were the words people were using when we had our evaluation at the end of the day and I had to hold back my tears on a number of occasions.
It was just what we needed with so many new staff, many of whom felt very unclear about where we are trying to go with working in schools. Now they know!
We are currently trying to finalise our strategy for schools and I would very much like to pass it your way for comment before we finish if that is ok?
Learning Partnerships West LPW


Sept 2013

  • Feedback from New Zealand Speaking Tour on Outdoor Early Years Play We thought it would be nice for you to hear exactly what the feedback was for your workshops specifically so here goes:
  •         “Awesome”“Loved the keynote speaker – completely inspired.”“Really enjoyed Michael especially” concrete’ examples such as Play/Ball of string to explore Natural networks – lots of fun!”“Gained some awesome ideas from the design workshop”“Michael Follett was fantastic”“Michael was a great inspirational speaker”

    “Keynote speaker was extraordinary, well organised workshop.”


‘I have been in education for 15 years, and by a long way this is the most successful and rewarding project I have ever been involved with.’  Andrew Lynham Head Teacher


‘The OPAL award was extremely beneficial in developing active and creative play in our school. The audit process identified priorities for development and guided us in developing a specific action plan with clear success criteria. We felt confident that play development at our school was based upon best practice. The final accreditation has been a cause of celebration for all staff involved and has enabled us to further promote active play to our parents.’ Marcus John Head Teacher


‘When I started here every playtime and lunchtime was spent dealing with the behaviour issues of an endless stream of children outside of my door, and now I have my lunch in peace and then walk around the grounds to chat with children who are playing happily. I think we are nearly at stage now where there is enough for everyone to find things that they want to do, but we are not stopping here – we will continue to make it even better. Chris Thomas Head Teacher


‘Coming from a play background I found your influence in South Glos a breathe of fresh air and I no longer felt like a lone voice. Increasingly as I go round the local schools I can see the ‘Follett touch’, you should be very proud of the paradigm shift you helped make happen here.’  John Ridley Head Teacher


‘It has been a pleasure to work with you and gain from your knowledge and experience. I know our children have benefited hugely from the work we have done with and through you.’ Paul Smith Head Teacher.


The following teachers’ testimonials have been taken from interviews conducted by the independent evaluation of OPAL by Dr Owain Jones from the University of West of England and Wendy Russell and Stuart Lester from the University of Gloucester.

‘We have seen a big shift in play behaviours from the traditional playground. There is a greater variety of play behaviours, children who were peripheral now have many alternatives for play. Den-making using the trees and bushes area is significant. There are more girls and boys playing together and more space so children are able to spread out. Certain trees are designated climbing trees and used under supervision.’ (School O interview notes).

‘When I first started here, I never got out at playtime or lunchtimes because children were queuing up around the door…I just didn’t get out. I rarely have children sent to me now and I think the Lunchtime Organisers know how to deal with things, and don’t have to deal with as much. So that’s been really good, that’s the thing that I really noticed and hopefully there is a knock on with teachers not having to deal with so much that comes up – some things were happening at lunchtime and we would spend the next hour doing circle time trying to get to the root of it.’ (Head Teacher, School O).

‘I actually can come in and sit down and again they have that quiet time, we can have a story – I think because that have had an active lunchtime they’ve been interested in what they have been doing at lunchtime, they haven’t come in either bored or just cold or not done anything or been wandering in and out. They are actually ready then to learn I think more in the afternoon.’ (School I)

‘I think relationships are developing, social relationships are much better. I think that comes from playing. They get on better, they solve their own problems, they negotiate and I think that’s why we have better behaviour because they are taking more responsibility, they are working together.’ (School S)

‘He (the OPAL mentor Michael Follett) is inspirational and has such a strong vision. He inspired the staff to have ideas and to make the changes. His input has been huge in getting it off the ground.’ (School R interview notes)

‘He ( the OPAL mentor Michael Follett) has been the catalyst, if you had taken him out of the equation it wouldn’t have happened.’ (School S interview notes)

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