Our Story


Our story so far…

It has taken over twenty years of action research to create the OPAL Primary Programme. This is our story so far...

From 2000-2005 Michael worked as strategic play officer for Bath and North East Somerset Council. During this time, he often received requests for help in improving schools’ playtimes and developed a course to train lunch time supervisors and give advice about grounds.

Between 2005-2011 Michael worked in South Gloucestershire Council’s beacon school improvement service as well as leading the council’s strategic play policy implementation. The emerging programme combined the best of a structured approach to school improvement, play theory and a trial-and-error approach of working with ambitious and innovative school leaders.

In response to the disbanding of school improvement services in 2011, OPAL was established as an independent not-for-profit community interest company with all the rights legally transferred from South Glos Council.

Since 2011 demand for OPAL’s insights and services to improve free play opportunities for all children in schools has steadily grown. OPAL was joined by Neil Coleman, then Ingrid Wilkinson, Kurt Birkenbeil, and a steadily growing team of experts in the fields of play and school improvement.

In 2019, in recognition of the valuable national contribution the programme was making to the wellbeing of children, OPAL was awarded a quarter of a million pounds by Sport England. The goal of the funding has been to further improve the reach and quality of the programme and resources for schools.

We have worked in special schools, PRU’s, infant and junior and even run a pilot for year 7 in secondary schools. We have supported the Play Friendly Schools project to improve play in schools across Europe, Asia and Canada. We have impacted the play lives of over one million children.

What we have learnt from all of our work is that the need to play and the fundamentals of what makes a good play environment are universal, but the ability of any organisation to provide for the needs of children depends on their values and priorities, combined with their willingness and capacity to change.

Our goal is that regardless of gender, race, ability or location – every child should have access to outstanding play opportunities every school day of their lives. We hope that you will become part of this story and work with us to realise this vision.

Michael Follett OPAL Founder

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