Purpose School-based programmes face a variety of personal, environmental and organisational challenges to implementation. Stakeholders can provide crucial contextual information to improve implementation. The purpose of this paper is to explore teachers' perspectives on implementation through a bottom-up participatory process.Design/methodology/approach A qualitative participatory approach was employed. This comprised groups of teachers theorising and creating schemas of school-based implementation.Findings Two schemas were developed. Support, time, training and resources emerged as common components. Students and other educational stakeholders did not feature in either schema.Research limitations/implications The schemas were developed by teachers in Ireland. The findings are relevant to that local context and generalisability beyond this may be limited. The developed schemas contain structural and content components that appear in published conceptual frameworks of programme implementation. Thus, there is some correspondence between the views of published theorists and the current sample of teachers, particularly with regard to leadership and teacher motivation. There are also disjunctures that deserve exploration, such as the lack of reference to students.Practical implications Participatory schema development could be of particular value to trainers working with educators. The generated schemas provide useful detail on current perspectives, which could be valuable as part of any training process or the pre-planning stages of implementation.Originality/value This study describes a straightforward approach to revealing the perspectives of stakeholders that could help school-based implementation processes.