Once upon a time, Helen was running her own nursery and discovering how difficult it was to connect with other early years educators to ask advice, get support or exchange ideas. This was in the days before Facebook, Twitter or Instagram (imagine that). Meanwhile, during long walks on the Downs, Steve was busy thinking about how to create a ‘virtual staffroom’ for practitioners. And so, on Valentine’s Day 2003, the Foundation Stage Forum (FSF) was born. Initially working alone, Steve created the space for educational conversations to happen. The online community grew and in 2005 the LA Membership Scheme was introduced. The FSF team grew too, and volunteer moderators supported the FSF, modelling and nurturing the community spirit that is so valued by our users.
Academics, practitioners and advisors contributed articles, building an information hub that continues to expand today, curated by our Education Team.
Meanwhile (again), Steve was still walking on the Downs, joined by their lovely dog, Finlay. And one day in 2011 he came up with the idea for an online learning journal. We know it as Tapestry, launched in October 2012. But that’s another story. With the arrival of social media, the use of the FSF has changed in recent years. But we believe our online community offers a different kind of space, where all educators can come to discover, share, support and learn together and continue to provide the best experiences for children.
The FSF is a gathering of voices, a place to seek advice, to debate and to make connections. This can only happen in an environment of mutual respect and kindness. We don’t expect everyone to agree on everything (that would be very boring) but we do expect everyone to contribute to our community spirit:
Contact us if you see an inappropriate post. We will check the problem and respond to you.
For a visual explanation of what we mean by our community spirit you can watch our Lessons From Geese.
Any objectionable posts will be removed. This has happened so rarely over the years. Please work with us to maintain the community spirit of the FSF. Thank you.
You could argue that this is all basically Steve’s fault! First the FSF, then Tapestry. What you need to know about Steve is that he listens very attentively to what you say, then goes away and thinks about it. Probably while walking on the Downs (although Helen says the thinking part happens in the pub too!). Then he has an idea and rolls with it.
After working for Ericsson for many years while Helen set up her own nursery, Steve did some of that listening and thinking and walking (and possibly pub frequenting) and came up with the idea of an online community for early years educators – now known as The Foundation Stage Forum (FSF).
Of course, the FSF provided loads more people for Helen and Steve to have conversations about education with. After a few years of listening, thinking, walking and pub frequenting, Steve had the idea of creating an online learning journal to facilitate partnership with parents – he and Helen called it Tapestry.
The rest is history – except the FSF and Tapestry are still evolving and responding to members’ and customers’ needs. And Steve is still here, older, slightly more battered, still listening – so you’d better watch out just in case you happen to mention something that gives him an idea…
Helen avoided full-time work for many years, following her ambition to be a perpetual student. After a degree in Linguistics, Music and Astronomy (probably the only person to have studied this particular combination of subjects) she gained a D.Phil from Sussex in Experimental Psychology. At the grand old age of 28, she thought she'd better get a proper job, so completed a PGCE and became a primary school teacher. After the birth of her second child she opened her own nursery, which she managed for ten happy years. She was amongst the first to achieve Early Years Professional Status (EYPS), and tutored students on early years courses at Brighton University. She has also been a local authority EYFS advisor and an early years Ofsted inspector.
Andy was rescued from self-employment by the FSF in 2015. After a short adjustment period where he tried to fire colleagues and take over the company, he became endlessly patient and now everyone plagues him for help! Andy's first job was to do a behind the scenes rewrite of Tapestry - an enormous task - and he has had a hand in pretty much everything since then. He's really good at taking everyone's ideas and magically turning them into reality.
As a Reception teacher at a school in Littlehampton, Ben was one of Tapestry's early customers. He made good use of the helpful Product Support Team, sending them lots of emails. Eventually, he was invited to come and meet everyone at ‘Tapestry Towers’. He must have made a good impression because a few years later he found himself at his very own desk at the new Tapestry HQ. Ben now uses his experience of teaching 4 year olds to help him adjust to working in an office - he finds it comes in handy with his colleagues, as well as making him a knowledgeable Education Advisor! He also tweets (a lot!) and runs the Tapestry Support Group on Facebook.
Dan has been with us since early 2017, and in his previous incarnation he was a serial developer and caretaker of bespoke websites, maintaining around one hundred of them. Since coming to the FSF he has learned more about the daily activities of children than he really expected to, through developing the Care Diary function on Tapestry. Perhaps one day he'll put this expertise into practise by, well, having some of his own. In the meantime he's very happy to reliably enjoy full nights of sleep. Dan has also been involved in the development of the Cherry Garden framework as well as working on translating Tapestry into other languages. Soon he will be both a childcare expert and multi-lingual!
Des joined FSF Development Team in 2018, he is currently rewriting the Tapestry application from scratch for Android devices. His goals are to make the app more modern and feature rich, with the Care Diary being the first of the new content. Being a competitive person, Des has also set himself the ambitious goal of drinking more tea than anyone else in the company. When he's not working, Des enjoys playing with his old motorcycle, hang gliding and the odd pint of real ale.
Emily joined The FSF in 2016 after completing her Bachelor's degree in Arts and Culture at Maastricht University in the Netherlands. She is now the Product Support Manager. Fuelled with as much tea as humanly possible, she oversees the team that assist our lovely customers with all their Tapestry needs. Emily is incredibly knowledgeable about Tapestry. She is also really good at making lists. Emily’s other very important role is to try and supply baked goods for the office whenever possible.
Gemma joined the FSF team on 1st April 2019 as part of the housekeeping team. She was pleased to find out that it wasn't an April Fool's joke, but in fact a serious role keeping the offices and communal areas spic and span and looking beautiful. She enjoys baking the odd treat for the team, which helps to keep their energy levels up during the afternoon slump. She also caters for the various events that are held on site, with her partner in crime, Trudy.
Jack started his career in education as a volunteer in a Brighton-based Charity for children with motor disorders. After which he was hired as an assistant conductor. During his time there, he studied at the University of Brighton to qualify as a primary school teacher. After a short stint as a supply teacher, Jack got his first job teaching Year 6. He remained in that role for a few years before moving to Year 4.
Jack joined Tapestry in August 2019 after many hints from his former housemate and now manager, Emily. In his Product Support role, Jack can be found answering customer emails and offering Tapestry advice on the phone. As part of the Education Team, you'll find him writing articles, recording podcasts and offering words of educational wisdom while drinking mugs of coffee.
Having grown up watching the FSF and Tapestry flourish into what it is today, Jamie joined the family business in 2018 after a short career as a personal trainer in a gym - the early morning starts and late Friday night shifts were enough to put anyone off exercise for life! He currently spends time editing our increasing library of videos and podcasts, as well as testing new features for Tapestry before they go out into the wide world.
Joe joined the burgeoning FSF and Tapestry product support team in July 2015, and quickly set to work tidying up the garden. Ushered inside towards one of the ‘computers’, Joe set to work answering customer emails with the same gusto, and the rest is history. Joe has since branched out, and is learning to support the FSF’s internal IT systems and help take care of the infrastructure at the FSF’s WaterCourt office
After graduating from Cambridge University with a degree in English Literature (the sole aim of which was to read as many novels as possible, a habit she has never managed to kick) Jules qualified as a teacher at UCL Insitute of Education and taught in both schools and nurseries. She had a children’s picture book published, wrote articles for the Foundation Stage Forum and managed to acquire a family and too many pets. The FSF and Tapestry team finally agreed to take her on for real in 2018. For a while she provided product support as well as being an education advisor, and then she took on the role of content editor for all things FSF and Tapestry. Jules is very happy because every day she gets to do two of the things she loves most - thinking about education and playing with words. She also answers to ‘Juliet’.
Kat joined the ranks of the Product Support Team just in time for the September rush in 2019, having spent the last four years working for the National Health Service. It was soon discovered that she has a wonderful artistic talent, so she is now Tapestry’s resident illustrator. When she is not at her desk answering customer support tickets, she can usually be found tucked up in the corner of the office somewhere creating illustrations for use on our website and forum. In her spare time she enjoys wearing full plate armour and swinging swords about and she will be starting her jousting training later this year (no, we are not joking). She is easily bribed with sweet food and will happily challenge anyone to a duel over the last chocolate Hobnob.
Kawsu joined the the team as a web developer in February 2019 to support the evolution of Tapestry. In his past life he has been involved in developing engineering, financial, medical, and telecoms software. He holds a bachelors and a masters degree in computer science and has worked as a visiting lecturer in computing at the University of Brighton. He spends his spare time recording music including jazz, reggae, techno, african, blues, and indie, although not all at once!
Kirk came to us via the route of his son's school using Tapestry. A 'Creative Technologist' he weaves rich media and web development together in new and inventive ways. Previously producing innovative digital storytelling products and platforms, Kirk produces our videos, develops the techncal side of our marketing website and he created the beautitful and engaging graphic for the Cherry Garden Framework. His passions include photography and video.
Lauren joined the Foundation Stage Forum in 2014 after studying for her undergraduate degree from the University of Birmingham. She joined initially to support the growing number of Tapestry customers, but over the years Lauren has moved into a product development focused role. She works with the Directors and Chief Engineer to plan the road map, as well as with customers to work out exactly what they need from new features, and with product testers to make sure these new features don’t make anything explode! Ironic, as she refuses to watch any films unless there is a chance of explosions! She is also our Data Protection Officer and has a whistle primed and ready, just in case. If she’s not at her desk you can usually find Lauren looking for snacks or for a dog to play with.
Louise joined the very small FSF team part time back in 2008, spending the rest of her week moonlighting as a school secretary. After a brief hiatus working full time in school, Louise was lured back in January 2018 as part of the product and customer support teams, finally enabling her to leave school and embark on life as a proper grown up! Louise also looks after Team Gemma and Trudy (G&T!) while they look after the building and staff. She is often joined in the office by her mad dog, Eric, who brings chaos and much hilarity to the team.
Lydia joined FSF & Tapestry in September 2019 as the Digital Marketing Manager, bringing over 10 years’ experience working in in SEO, Digital Marketing and Social Media agencies. A self-confessed data geek, and lover of cowboy boots, you can hear her coming! Known to mention ‘Google’ or ‘Analytics’ on a regular basis, she is determined to share her love of digital. Mum to Maisie and Buzz, in her spare time she likes to eat a lot of cake. Which is great beacuse there's quite often cake somewhere in the office.
Matt became part of the FSF team in 2009, after completing his degree in Computer Science. His primary activity was entertaining Finlay the dog, but he still found time to create PRAMS. In 2011 he escaped and was able to obtain a masters degree in Computer Games Programming before being recaptured in 2012 and put to work on the new Tapestry application. He brought Tapestry through numerous changes until it became the system it is today. Aided by Rebecca H he hatched another escape plan, and together they fled to Australia in 2017. Matt continues to work remotely for the FSF and Tapestry, and in his spare moments likes to brew beer, prepare tasty things to eat and get outside in the sunshine.
Matt has known Steve and Helen since 2004. For a long time he maintained the FSF community software. Then at some point in late 2011, Steve mentioned an idea he had to take learning journey folders online. He somehow convinced Matt that it would only be a small feature addition for the forum and could be completed over a weekend. This idea soon blossomed into Tapestry and Matt was tasked with creating the first version, which was released in 2012. Thankfully, Tapestry was an immediate hit and is now looked after by a team of very talented developers allowing Matt to return to looking after the community software and payment systems. In his spare time, Matt enjoys playing the guitar, wrangling with his two boys, and refusing to watch any of the Lord of the Ring films.
Olaya (pronounced ‘oh liar’ or ‘Oh-Leia’, depending on your love for Star Wars) joined the FSF and Tapestry in August 2017, having moved to England from the Basque Country in 2014 to be an aupair. During her first year in the UK she identified herself as a Brightonian (Hovian, actually), decided East Sussex was her home now and, shortly after completing her MSc in International Events Management, she found her place among us. Olaya is part of the Product Support team, and helps settings make the most of their Tapestry accounts via training, video tutorials and helpful tips. She is also translating Tapestry into Spanish, coordinates any events that we attend or host and is learning a bit more about Digital Marketing. Olaya loves reading Fantasy and Sci-Fi and you can often find her climbing walls.
Rebecca H was first introduced to the FSF and Tapestry via Matt K, where she became devoted to the office dog, Finlay. Then in August 2016, after completing her Master’s Degree in Applied Linguistics, she joined the FSF as part of the product support team, Emily’s fellow tea guzzler and linguistic sage (not the herb). She currently resides in Australia and enjoys discussing ECEC practices with Australian educators to support and develop their use of Tapestry. She also tests Tapestry to ensure a high quality of user experience. Rebecca spends much of her time concocting patisserie, watching sausage dogs and investigating Hindi through Bollywood lyrics.
Richard joined the FSF and Tapestry in September 2019. In his life before that he studied for his MA, worked in a call centre and in a bookshop. He also produced a song for a film. Richard supports our customers as part of the Product Support team, as well as writing tutorials and testing new features. He plays the guitar – but not at the same time as the above!
Stephen worked in mainstream for the first four years of his career before moving to Cherry Garden School in London where he was Early Years lead and Deputy Headteacher. Cherry Garden is a school for children with severe and complex learning needs, and Stephen was based there for 11 years before joining the FSF in September 2019 as our SEND Advisor. He now lives in the North East where he visits nurseries and schools to offer free support, and he shares the Branch Maps that he worked on developing at Cherry Garden. These are now part of the Tapestry assessment system. Stephen has two young children who contribute hugely to his sleep deprivation and generally ‘tired’ look.
Sue began working at the FSF way back in 2005, and has the scars to prove it. At first she looked after customers as the customer service manager, and anyone who takes care of one of the FSF local authority schemes will undoubtedly have had a lot of contact with her. More recently she has taken on the role of Accounts and Finance Manager, overseeing monies coming in and going out. Prior to this her career included customer services roles with HSBC before moving to do UK and Export sales for a large manufacturing firm. Once her children were in school Sue worked in Helen's nursery for several years, having achieved her NVQ Level 3 in Early Years Care and Education. In her spare time (we don't give her much of that) she plays a mean round of golf and cares lovingly for her dog Billy.
Tim has had a varied career, including at least these three elements: he was an IT manager in a local newspaper organisation; he holds Early Years Teacher Status and has built a childminding business; he currently looks after the FSF and Tapestry IT systems and is a member of the product support team. All this still leaves him time to cycle more miles than it can possibly be good for anyone to do. Messi the dog often joins him at work and helps out with all the technical stuff!
Tom joined us in 2015, having previously been a deputy director for the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC). His son went to a nursery that used Tapestry and Tom liked the product so much he thought he'd join us and make it even better. He's an engineer by training, including a PhD, and so Steve decided to give him the job title of Chief Engineer. He is in charge of programming and looks after the Tapestry developers and generally does magic things.
Trudy has worked most of her adult life, only taking 'time off' for three years when she had her son. Over the past twenty years she has worked mainly in the hospitality industry. A lot of that time was spent housekeeping, so she was quite happy to join the housekeeping team at FSF and Tapestry HQ. She looks after everyone and keeps us all out of mischief - not an easy task!