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 to COVID-19. Being interviewed whilst social distancing just takes a little bit of thought and preparation.


Advertising for a post needs to be right, it is an important part of the process,


It is very important that you follow these guidelines when advertising a post. You must not state or imply in a job advert that you’ll discriminate against anyone. This includes saying that you are not able to cater for an employee with a disability.


You want to attract the best applicants and if you follow these recommendations you will provide a very professional advert that contains all the right information for your prospective applicants.


✓  Name of your setting – you can add your full address too

✓  Where you are based (not everyone knows all the villages / towns, please add ‘near’ .….. (major town)

✓  Title of the role – there are many variations –  use the job title that you use in your setting.

✓  Qualification level you require – very important in adhering to ratio requirements, you can add number of years’ experience required at this level you require too if you wish or simply say ‘experienced’ / ‘newly qualified’ / working towards.

✓  Additional phrases  only use phrases like ‘recent graduate’ or ‘highly experienced’ when these are actual requirements of the job. Otherwise you could discriminate against younger or older people who might not have had the opportunity to get qualifications.

✓  The hours – days of the week, start time / finish time, is the post term time only? Shift pattern.

 Salary – be transparent, provide a range or state ‘negotiable’, competitive or attractive

✓  Some information about what skills and knowledge you require. You will have a more complex list of skills and knowledge ready to send out in your job application packs

✓  What else do you offer that would attract applicants? Holiday, don’t forget further training – place a high importance on continued professional development that you offer, a lack of training opportunities will increase turnover

✓  Sell yourself! You want to attract the best people. Your advert needs to be professional and demonstrate your commitment to finding the right people. Include your vision, what your staff say about working with you, what families say, your last Ofsted comments, Ofsted judgment, sum up your values, have you any accreditation, awards you have won?

✓  Do you invite potential applicants to visit your setting? Informal visits can be a good opportunity to see your applicants. Do not ask people to attend for a session unpaid or volunteer for the day, this is NOT good practice. It’s a chance for you to see this person and how they present themselves

✓  Interview date or dates and other activities you use as part of the recruitment process. For example ‘candidates shortlisted for the post will be expected to provide an story / activity for a small group of children or / and  complete a written activity or / and undertake a joint observation etc

✓  A safer recruitment statement E.g. ‘We follow all aspects of safer recruitment’. ‘You will be required to have an enhanced DBS’, ‘all references will be taken up’ etc.

✓ Please ensure that your recruitment advert states positively that you actively and positively welcome people from diverse backgrounds and with disabilities

✓  How to apply. NB NO REQUEST JUST FOR CV’s invite people to apply for an application form and have ‘job application packs’ ready to send by email or hard copy. People can send a CV alongside a formal application if you wish

✓  Full contact details Your – Name, Email, Phone

✓  Add a link to your website or social media pages

✓  The closing date for applications – this is really important and in line with safer recruitment and also enables us to keep sharing.


Please be aware of the following


‘SAFERjobs’  and the ‘Principles of Good Practice’  Any ‘job related fraud’, fake jobs or illegal working will be investigated and information passed onto the relevant authority.



Once you have cracked the advert, 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 timeline.


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? Question on arrival 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 is 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. Or the applicant can scan ID in and hold it up via Zoom for checking.


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!

Prepare links and documents to send via the chat.

Prepare your emails in advance and personalise them when sending out

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. Join my VIP group for free training, formats and much more!


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 the University of Sussex, I am available for September 2021. I will only be able to support 3 students for this school year (2021-2022).

I am starting a Membership Group to support my students and students across England undertaking EYT 2021 – 2022, initially I am supporting with applications via this Mailchimp list.

Early Years Initial Teacher Training (EYITT) – Virtual ‘VIP’ Mentoring and Support

The Membership Group will not replace external or internal mentoring, it will enhance it. It will have lots of training, support, research discussions and networking and so much more! If you are on the Mailchimp list you will be able to benefit from becoming a ‘founding member’ (£45.00 per month for founding members joining before September 2021). Level 1 membership will be £55.00 per month.

Here is some lovely feedback from past students –

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!