SchemaPlay – Would you like to be an ‘accredited’ setting?

I have had a long career in Early Years and many varied roles within that. I came to further studies just over 13 years ago, with a secure knowledge in child development I was not sure what more I could learn! How wrong I was! Theory and research held all the answers for me, explained why I interreacted as I did, why I provided opportunities for children to explore and why I enjoyed observing children as they found out things for themselves. This whole new world gave me a new zest for my chosen profession and this is where I first found out about Schema. Patterns of repeated behaviour were referred to as Schemas then, we now know that what we traditionally referred to a Schemas are in fact Schemes, this was because Piaget?s work was misinterpreted through translation, the training explores the meaning of Schemes and Schemas in much more detail and these are both very relevant to children learning through play.

My Early Years Teacher Status led me to being an Early Years Development Officer for my local authority. The role allowed me to share my knowledge and experience and train EYFS providers. Six years ago I was made redundant and I started up my own independent consultancy Orange Caterpillar. I support providers across the South East and into London with all aspects of the EYFS. I have always been interested in the way that children learn, how adults plan and guide the learning and the way that ?a whole setting approach? nurtures and centres around the child. So for me, the opportunity to find out more about Schemes and Schema and the SchemaPlay pedagogy allowed me to deepen my understanding as well as widen my training offer and this felt the natural thing to do. Thinking I?d have enough knowledge to work my way easily through the training, yes, you?ve guessed it, I was blown away again! We learnt so much more about being in ?flow?, the wide range of schemes that children displayed and some new ones such as ?dabbing? and ?swiping?. We looked closely at how children learn through play with the help of a simple and easy to understand info graphic that now forms the basis of all the other trainings that I deliver. I?ve now recognised that I am in ?flow? too when I deliver!

Play is a much talked about and contentious issue but actually it?s simple. Children need to explore freely, be given opportunities, experiences and resources to inspire them, feel happy, safe and be given the time to be ?in the zone?. They also need adults who are willing to learn from their observations to seed, interact and provide critical thinking and of course other children to connect with, learn from and teach too. The SchemaPlay pedagogy really does deepen this, practitioners experience ?a real moment of ?I get play now?, and leaders delight in the reignited environment where wellbeing and involvement is at its highest and leaps in outcomes quickly emerge.

Being an accredited trainer for SchemaPlay also tapped into my skills as an external mentor for Early Years Teacher students at the University of Sussex and the University of Brighton. As a SchemaPlay accredited trainer I quickly establish what?s working well and build on the learning and go on a journey with providers and practitioners. This means that we, together, tap into current knowledge and build the understanding in the SchemaPlay pedagogy until, quite honestly, it reaches a crescendo! ?Practitioners are inspired and intrigued to know more, observations become richer and connections with children grow deeper. Of course it?s children who benefit most and observing this is like watching a little bit of magic happen and honestly makes you feel all warm inside! Children never forget the way that they learn and will, in turn, make great teachers themselves.

I have been very interested in sustainability for some time, on my own journey to saving more energy, being eco friendly and eating a plant based diet, but it?s only recently that I have linked this with my training and consultancy. SchemaPlay and the OMEP UK Early Childhood Sustainable Citizenship Award are intertwined. The Bronze award really focuses on ?children as sustainable citizens and links their learning through SchemaPlay pedagogy to caring for each other, the community and the planet. Parents play an important part in the setting achieving this award and when? we think back to learning through play the role of the parent is crucial to the developing child. Children become really animated about the things that they care about and a nature based curriculum really lends itself to connecting with living things and children come to their own conclusions about saving water, recycling and thinking about each other.

So, two separate but closely linked objectives for you, your team, parents and children. Be prepared to be ?blown away?! I am currently training to deliver the Silver OMEP award ? so much more to learn!

Delivering advice, consultancy, support and training at this time virtually. I am currently adapting the accreditation for SchemaPlay and the OMEP award to support you at this time.

Alison Featherbe

SchemaPlay Licensed Trainer



Interviewing for a new role can be stressful experience at the best of times, without the added complication of our roles and responsibilities due toCOVID-19. Being interviewed whilst social distancing just takes a little bit of thought and preparation.


Advertising for a post needs to be right, it?s an important part of the process and you can find top tips here on the pinned post?


Make sure you also describe the selection process at this time. A closing date is a must and set yourself an interview date so applicants can see your time line.


If you can, make sure your process of applying can be done remotely. Sending the application form on an email, so that it can be typed on and sent back. Make sure your form does this easily as forms that shift around are hard to manage. Look into google forms, these work well.


Invite people to an interview via Skype, Teams or Zoom (other virtual platforms are available). This will take some preparing and make sure you explain the process in your emails, so that everyone feels confident. Not everyone is familiar with Skype or Zoom, you will also need to make sure they have the latest compatible versions. Be mindful that some computers may not upgrade to latest versions.


Explain about the process of an interview or selection virtually, what time will you contact them, they will need to make sure there is no interruptions and have a ?how are you? to make people feel relaxed. It may be that you provide some questions in advance so that people can make some notes. Tell people if you are recording the session and if anyone else is in the room either listening and taking notes or working on other things.


Preparation is key, have all of their information to hand. Not being able to visit you in person may mean that you have a physical show round opportunity as part of the process. You can organise this at the end of the day when no children are around. It is also a good idea to tell people to research you. This means looking at your website and social media or Ofsted inspection. Applicants will understand your vision, aims and future plans and you can talk to them about that.

It is possible to get an idea about a setting from research and so the applicant can decide if they would be a good fit for you and be able to demonstrate this in their interview.


Applicants biggest concern will be how they come across virtually. Help them to feel relaxed by sending some top tips. These could include

  • Make sure the background is uncluttered
  • Keep the interview ?family-free?
  • Lighting is important for virtual discussions
  • It?s also still important to present well and dress like it was a face to face interview
  • Giving eye contact is hard virtually ? some computers cameras are better than others, whilst this is important you will have to make allowances
  • Technical difficulties ? have phone numbers to hand to carry on the conversation
  • Be yourself and relax!


Consider how you are going to make sure the usual elements of an interview still take place. Formally welcoming and thanking for the application, certificate and qualification information and checking, as well as a discussion about references and DBS information at this time. You will still need to see original documentation ? get it sent recorded delivery and get it sent back recorded asap.


Here are some other preparation considerations


  • Contact the applicant well in advance and provide instructions and a time line
  • Gather all the information you need including phone number in case anything goes wrong
  • Send a reminder the day before and an hour before with joining instructions
  • Think about any necessary adjustments that need to be made to accommodate any special needs
  • Choose a well-lit space for your interview with a clean background and wall
  • Limit background noise and distractions during your interview time
  • Dress as you would for a formal face-to-face interview
  • Focus on positive body language – sit up straight, smile, maintain eye contact and make sure you look at the webcam and not the computer screen. Try not to fill the whole screen with your face!
  • Follow up the interview with a ?thank you? message and invite any additional questions that might not have been covered on the interview
  • Make sure your access to the software that you are going to be used is working well
  • Test your connection and internet speed
  • Run a mock interview with a colleague to check your position on camera


Ready to take the next step in virtual safer recruitment? If you need formats, emails responses, further training, support and advice, do get in touch.


Alison Featherbe

Virtual EYFS Support

Orange Caterpillar



It’s that time of year when students are finalising their studies. I am extremely fortunate to be an external mentor for students every year. As part of my reflections on my support I send out a questionnaire. If you have secured a place on the EYTS at either the University of Sussex or the University of Brighton, I am available for September 2020. I will only be able to support 3 students for the forthcoming year.

Here is some lovely feedback

Q Did I provide appropriate challenge to enable you to reflect on your practice?

Yes, you inspired us all, and opened up lots of interesting avenues for me to explore, that I am still exploring, and guided me expertly in my ‘learning journey’.

Q Did I provide you with support and / or model practice in planning, teaching, understanding behaviour and assessment? If so what was most helpful in developing your practice?

Yes, the most helpful was your advice and help around managing conflict.

Q Were my observations accurate and did they provide constructive feedback to deepen your pedagogical knowledge?

Yes. My pedagogy has developed beyond my imaginings with your help and support. The general trajectory’s been from a very individualised understanding, to an increasingly relational perspective, and I continue learn and deepen my understanding.

Thank you so much

Sarah ? University of Sussex MA in Early Years Education with EYTS

It’s a honour and a privilege to provide external mentoring and allows me to continue to learn too!