An exceptional lineup of speakers from across the early years has been assembled by Nursery World to deliver a vibrant, educational and inspiring mix of seminars and masterclasses. The full list of speakers and their biographies is available here.


Jacky Chan is a doctoral student in the Department of Psychology at Lancaster University. His PhD is funded by the Leverhulme Doctoral Scholarship Programme in Interdisciplinary Research on Infant Development. His research is comparing how monolingual and bilingual/multilingual children use different strategies to learn words. He is also investigating how pre-school staff communicates with children, in particular EAL children, with a view to identifying and devising strategies that pre-school staff can use to foster language development in EAL children.


Di Chilvers is an advisory consultant in early childhood education having worked in the early year’s sector for over 39 years as a Nursery Nurse, Teacher, Senior Lecturer, Adviser and National Strategies Regional Adviser. Her work includes children’s creative and critical thinking and following children’s interests, ideas and fascinations through observing children, understanding their development and HOW they learn, listening to their conversational talk and trying to understand their thinking. Visits to Reggio Emilia, Denmark, New Zealand, Oman, Ghana and India have all influenced Di’s thinking and philosophy. She has written several books, many articles and has created an assessment tool called Development Map – an holistic, child centered way of mapping children’s development and progress. For more information about Di please see her website at www. watchmegrow.uk

Janice Darkes-Sutcliffe

Based in Liverpool, Janice Darkes-Sutcliffe is an independent early years trainer and consultant with experience working in local, national and international contexts. She has 17 years’ teaching experience in both mainstream and specialist provision and from 2004 was an advisory teacher for the EYFS at Liverpool City Council, working closely with early years practitioners in schools, nurseries and children’s centres.

Janice is passionate about working with the youngest children, believing that if we get it right in the early years, then children truly can be given the best start for life! As part of her PhD studies, Janice is a practitioner researcher for the ‘BORN4LIFE’ project and has a particular interest in the role of those working with the youngest children as ‘creators of knowledge’. Janice is currently involved in several LA projects in Scotland and England and has recent teaching experience at Liverpool John Moores University.

Lisa Dorrity

Lisa Dorrity is senior school improvement officer, EYFS Learning Strategies at School Improvement Liverpool, which she joined in 2013. Formerly, she was a deputy head teacher at a large infant school in Liverpool following several years as EYFS lead at a primary school and children’s centre in Sefton. She has experience teaching across EYFS, KS1 and KS2 and as a Nurture Group teacher. Her leadership responsibilities have included SENCo, data and assessment lead, safeguarding lead, with responsibility for behaviour and safety.

In her current role, she offers support to a variety of schools and settings that range from outstanding to inadequate. By building strong relationships with practitioners and through identifying areas of development for the city, she is able to support the Quality Improvement Team to offer training, support and briefings throughout the year.

Lisa currently sits on a number of steering groups across the city as well as working closely with Liverpool headteachers and setting managers. She has led the Quality Improvement Team through the introduction of various projects, including the Liverpool Chartered Leadership programme and Liverpool Early Years Reading Quality Mark.


In 1995 I took a research year off from my job as a nursery teacher in a Newcastle nursery school, in order to make a proposal for a new early childhood centre. The values of this proposal were researchfulness, enquiry, co-construction of knowledge, creativity – of all participants – children, educators, and community. During this 'sabbatical year' I read and heard more about Reggio's preschools. "Robin", said one of our steering groups wistfully, "you can't talk like this about exploration, listening and imagination as a value; you have to talk about targets".

However, excitingly, we found this was not the case. Instead, we hosted the first English showing of the Hundred Languages of Children exhibit from the preschools of Reggio Emilia, and Sightlines Initiative was formed. With many others, we are still researching, learning and making. I continue to be inspired to meet and work with others nationally and internationally in the work of forming listening pedagogies in UK educational settings. "


An experienced early years teacher, and an Apple Distinguished Educator, Marc is well known for his innovative use of technology with children aged 3 to 5. His popular blog, Enabling-Environments.co.uk, shares how technology can support learning in the Early Years Foundation Stage. Marc is also a primary school Computing Leader, supporting local authorities across England and consults on research trials with the University of Nottingham. He speaks internationally at education conferences and has collaborated with teachers in Brazil, Australia, America and Europe.


Rachael Flesher is NNEB qualified and has worked as a nanny and in day nurseries and private schools. Following gaining her BA (hons) in Early Childhood Studies Rachael took up an early years advisory role with North Yorkshire County Council. She joined Ofsted in 2008 as an early years inspector and became HMI in 2010. Rachael has vast experience of early years inspection and regulation work, including inspecting children’s centres, independent schools and initial teacher education in further education provision. Rachael’s current role is Senior Inspection Manager for the North West. This involves ensuring regional inspection performance targets for volumes, timeliness and quality are met and the 44 inspectors in the region meet the high standards expected by Ofsted.


Dr Caroline Floccia is a reader in developmental psychology at the School of Psychology, University of Plymouth and a collaborator on projects at LuCiD, a five-year research project working to transform our understanding of language development. Her research has focused on speech perception in adults, children and infants within a psycholinguistic perspective. Recently, she has turned her attention to bilingual development, as well as the learning and development of accents and dialects.


Anne is an independent consultant and a proud parent and grandparent.After becoming involved with running her children’s Play Group and later helping in their school, Anne returned to University to train as an infant teacher, subsequently working in primary education, further and higher education and Sure Start Children’s Centres. Now as a consultant and trainer, Anne has worked with colleagues in schools, nurseries, pre-schools, children’s centres and the home setting, focusing on developmentally appropriate practice and equality of opportunity.Anne is particularly interested in the links between early experiences of learning and its effects on both emotional well-being and achievement both in school and in adult life.

Anne’s publications include book chapters about practitioner research and working with families as well as magazine articles about discovering the child’s viewpoint and more recently, ‘school readiness’. Anne’s latest book is entitled ‘We’re OK with Risky Play’ and focuses on embracing risk in Early Years practice.


Menna Godfrey is an early year’s teacher, trainer and consultant based in York, and her day-to-day job is as lead practitioner in the playgroup that she owns. She has a particular interest in the effective use of the outdoor environment and natural resources as teaching and learning tools for children from birth onwards. Menna believes that deep learning takes place most effectively when children, parents and staff work together to understand how and where learning takes place. She is passionate that staff should provide an enabling environment that supports all young children to make choices about their own learning.

Menna is currently in the early stages of a PhD, studying children’s freely chosen play in the outdoor environment and in particular the significance of the relationship between the environment and the learner.


Cath Hunter has over 35 years’ experience of working with children and families in a variety of childcare settings, schools, college and university. Cath works as a play therapist, trainer and therapeutic consultant in several primary schools in the North West, working with children aged three to 11, parents and school staff. She has also contributed articles to Nursery World.

She is author of a three-part series of books entitled Understanding and Managing Children’s Behaviour through Group Work: A child-centred programme, covering ages 3-5, 5-7 and 7 – 11.


Debbie is an Academic, and lectures at Manchester Metropolitan University on the Youth and Community degree course. She holds her first Professional Qualifications in Youth and Community work, later taking Level 7 qualifications in Coaching and mentoring, management and Leadership as well as the (NPQICL-National Professional Qualification in Integrated Centre Leadership).

Debbie has a particular interest, passion and expertise in attachment, trauma and resilience based practice’ and has always strived to ensure practice is inclusive and responsive to each unique and diverse individual and community that she has worked with whether through Strategic influencing or local. As part of Debbie’s National implementation role at Barnardo’s, KCA were commissioned to deliver training to the work force of Barnardo’s on attachment and trauma, particularly using the tool ‘Five to Thrive’ therefore Debbie has experience of finding strategies to implement learning from KCA training, into whole workforce practice and policy change and can provide diverse examples of this approach within her training delivery.

In April 2017, Debbie became self- employed and has independently delivered consultancy and training in a wide range of subjects across the UK for a variety of providers in the social care sector. She is an associate trainer for KCA and also for a local charitable organisation; The Flowhesion Foundation.Debbie also provides freelance external supervision, consultancy and training local for voluntary youth organisations and is in the process of developing National training programmes with a focus on LAC, Early Years and fostering.


Ann Law is CACHE L3 qualified and has worked in pre-schools and as a childminder. She is also qualified as a post-16 lecturer, has a BA (Hons) in Early Childhood Studies, and taught on childcare courses in FE colleges. Ann worked for Kirklees Council in an early years development role before joining Ofsted as an inspector in 2003. She has specialised in compliance, investigation and enforcement for the last 10 years. Ann is the Early Years Senior Officer for the North West. She manages a team of Early Years Regulatory Inspectors ensuring their work is of the highest quality and supports and promotes improvement. Ann is responsible for high-risk registrations, re-inspection of inadequate providers, and compliance and enforcement decision making.

Prof Padraic Monaghan and the LuCiD language research centre

Padraic Monaghan is professor of Cognition at Lancaster University and co-director of the ESRC International Centre for Language and Communicative Development (LuCiD), a five-year research project aimed at transforming our understanding of children's language communication. Professor Monaghan’s work investigates children’s very early experience and its influence on their language development, and effects on later literacy acquisition, in both monolingual and bilingual children.


Claire Noble is a Senior Postdoctoral Researcher at the University of Liverpool. She completed her PhD there in 2009 and has been working on language development ever since. She is part of the ‘Reading Together’ project team who are looking at how shared book reading can support language development. She is also working with the University’s partners at national literacy charity Beanstalk to evaluate their ‘Story Starters’ programme in local pre-schools.


Suzanne Scott is owner and manager of Sandfield Natural Play Centre in Knowsley, Merseyside. The nursery is celebrating ten years of adventures and achievements: it was crowned NDNA UK Nursery of The Year 2011, has won numerous national awards, and has developed a Natural Play philosophy and approach to learning outdoors with inspirational mentor and early years outdoor specialist Jan White.

The Nursery has also has been judged ‘Outstanding’ in all areas twice by Ofsted, which described it as ‘an inspirational outside play space’ where ‘children are curious, creative, highly motivated and confident learners.’

Suzanne has travelled far and wide to seek best practice and, in turn, has hosted inspiring study visits for UK and international visitors.


Alice Sharp is managing director of training centre, Experiential Play, and director of resource company, Wonderbox, specialising in interactive products for use with children under three. As a hugely popular and effective trainer, she has undertaken training projects across the UK and abroad, and has produced a variety of training resources, most recently the DVD ‘Learning nuggets with Alice Sharp’.

She trained as a primary teacher, was formerly a lecturer in early education and childcare at Glasgow College, and is an associate of the University of Glasgow and London Early Years Foundation, the UK's largest social enterprise for childcare and early education, working to support long-term social change and with 34 nurseries across London.


Jennifer Staunton is quality improvement officer, EYFS Learning Strategies, at School Improvement Liverpool, where she has led and developed many training events and projects, among them, Liverpool Early Years SENCo Award and Building A Bridge of Books.

Since qualifying as a nursery nurse in 1997, she has gained other professional qualifications, achieved Early Years Teacher Status and more recently been employed as a senior lecturer at a University. Her earlier roles, in children’s centres and PVI and maintained settings, included SENCo, designated safeguarding officer, family learning co-ordinator and nursery manager. She has also had experience of planning, developing and leading provision for two-year-olds within a school setting, which was judged Outstanding in all areas in January 2014.

Ann Thompson

Ann Thompson is teacher and early year consultant at Sandfield Natural Play Centre, Knowsley, where she is working alongside owner Suzanne Scott and outdoor play specialist Jan White to implement a natural play approach to outdoor learning. In March this year, Sandfield was rated Outstanding in all areas of provision by Ofsted.

As part of her work there, she supports staff and undergraduates on placement from Edge Hill University, as well as organising study days for visiting students from Chester University, international visitors and practitioners from schools and nursery settings.

She is also currently working with a number of settings to audit their outdoor environments, support self-evaluation and share ideas to improve learning and development. Her interests include developing ideas for the creative use of picture books, the use of natural materials as open-ended play resources and photography projects for young children to enhance their learning experiences outdoors.


Judith qualified as a junior teacher in the days of discovery learning and topic webs. Following five years of teaching, she moved to South Africa to teach in a small rural school which was a pioneer of multi-racial education in the post-apartheid years. There she developed a pre-school curriculum and introduced a creative approach to teaching.

Getting married and starting a family resulted in Judith taking a career break and, during this time, she led creative arts at a small college in Cape Town. A return to teaching took Judith first to Year 2 and then to Reception where she discovered her passion for early years. She organised an early years cluster group comprising of practitioners from across early years settings and this gave her the opening to become a local authority early years consultant and children’s centre teacher. During this time she also trained as an NVQ assessor and Ofsted inspector, and spent six months on a secondment to senior leadership in a large primary school. For a couple of years, she developed her own independent training and consultancy work specialising in early years, alongside her work as a local authority consultant. She delivered training with BEAM on early years maths and has collaborated with Michael Jones, formerly an ECaT consultant, as co-author of ‘Let’s Talk About Maths’.

She now works for Early Excellence as a regional development manager and senior consultant. She brings to her training and consultancy a wealth of experience and knowledge. Judith is an inspiring and motivating trainer who combines theory and practical hands on experiences successfully to create an unforgettable day.


Gary Wilson is one of the country’s leading authorities on raising boys’ achievement and is the author of several books including ‘Raising Boys’ Achievement’. A teacher for 27 years, he began work on raising boys' achievement in his own cluster of schools in 1993. In 2001 he wrote ‘Using the National Healthy School Standard to Raise Boys' Achievement’ for the NHA and the DfES based on the success of his work in schools.

In 2003 he was made the country's first Local Authority school improvement officer with specific responsibility for raising boys' achievement. From 2005-2010 he was chair of the National Education Breakthrough Programme on Raising Boys' Achievement which worked across 300 schools nationwide.

He has advised and delivered training in over a thousand schools and over thirty LAs across the UK.His first book ‘Breaking Through The Barriers to Boys’ Achievement and Developing a Caring Masculinity’ was described in The Guardian as ‘undoubtedly the seminal work on this subject’. In 2016 he has produced two new books ‘Boys Will Be…Brilliant! Getting it Right for Boys in Early Years’ (with Linda Tallent) and 1100 Ideas for Primary Teachers: Raising Boys’ Achievement’.


Working across the UK and internationally, Jan is a leading thinker and writer on outdoor play, advocate for high-quality outdoor provision for services for children from birth to seven and co-director of Early Childhood Outdoors, the National Centre for Play, Learning and Wellbeing Outdoors. With over 30 years’ experience in education, including working with Learning through Landscapes and Early Excellence to develop national support for early years’ outdoor provision, and as an Associate Lecturer at Sheffield Hallam and Birmingham City Universities (CREC), she has developed a deep commitment to the consistently powerful effect of the outdoors on young children. She is currently an Early Education Associate, convenor of the Landscapes for Early Childhood national network, and provides training courses, conference keynotes and consultancy for a wide range of early years settings.

Jan is an award-winning author of Playing and Learning Outdoors: making provision for high quality experiences in the outdoor environment with children 3-7 (NW staff resources winner 2014), Making a Mud Kitchen (Muddyfaces) and Every Child a Mover (NW professional books winner 2016), editor of Outdoor Provision in the Early Years, and collaborated with Siren Films to make the award-winning training DVDs Babies Outdoors, Toddlers Outdoors and Two Year-olds Outdoors (NW staff resources winner 2012). Her website is janwhitenaturalplay.wordpress.com


Julieann White is founder and managing director of award-winning outdoor nursery Nuture to Nurture, in Liverpool. Since opening in 2012, it has pioneered inclusive provision and practice, by focusing on child well-being and attachment. In its latest Ofsted inspection, in 2016, it was judged Outstanding in all areas.

The setting has been a finalist in eight awards, including Inspirational Woman and Social Enterprise of the Year and in 2017 was named Nursery World’s Pre-school of the Year.

Inspired by an outdoor play conference, Julieann went on to transform the outdoor area of the setting where she worked, and record the impact in her university research. The positive effects of the outdoors on the children’s well-being – as well as her own following an operation – inspired her to set up Nature to Nurture. The rising number of children with additional needs – coupled with lack of funding to support them – then inspired her to pioneer strategies that focus on attachment and gentle transition and have enabled all children at the setting to flourish.

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