The Office Team

Dr Shelly Newstead

Managing Director

Dr Shelly Newstead created the PARS playwork model as part of her doctoral research at the UCL Institute of Education, London, and has been appointed as an Adjunct Research Fellow at Griffith University, Brisbane Australia. Shelly has worked in the playwork field for nearly thirty years as a practitioner, trainer, author, editor, publisher and researcher. She is the Series Editor for Advances in Playwork Research (Routledge) and the Managing Editor of International Journal of Playwork Practice. She is also currently the President of the International Council for Children’s Play (ICCP) and her research interests include the history of playwork and the development of empirical evidence about playwork practice. Shelly is also the author of the popular Busker’s Guide to Playwork which has sold over 12,000 copies worldwide and is now also available in Japanese.

Helen Dee

Lead IQA

Helen Dee (previously Hill) Helen has an MSc in Child Psychology and a PGCE post 16 as well as her Playwork qualifications. She owned and ran an after school club and holiday playscheme for several years and went on to train playworkers to NVQ levels 2 and 3, before becoming an external verifier for Cache. During this time she was involved in the development of the new standards with the Playwork National Occupational Standards Committee at SPRITO. With 6 children and 8 grandchildren so far there has been plenty of opportunity for playing! After many years training and then managing apprenticeship provision in a variety of organisations Helen is now very happy to be involved with Common Threads and particularly with the PARS practitioner qualifications.

Abby Wilkins


Abby holds a First Class degree in Education Studies and became the Manager of her wrap around provision in 2014 (which is where she used to attend as a child, so hasn’t actually left since she was 4 years old!). She is passionate about providing high quality opportunities to children and young people and educating parents, carers and staff about how best to support their development. Abby has worked with a highly respected child psychologist in the play industry and Abby’s setting partners with them as their official toy testers! Abby delivers courses in well-being and safeguarding to adults and young people and is also a CEOP ambassador. Abby loves watching live music, being outdoors with her dog and partner and exploring new places.

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