As part of Acorn’s commitment to staff development, on Tuesday 31st May we held our annual staff conference (our first one since 2019!)! It was wonderful to have all our staff together in one room again, professionally and personally connecting with their colleagues, as well as with other staff across all our nurseries and the central support team.

We kicked off the conference by an introductory talk by Zoe, our CEO, where we reflected on our organisation post pandemic and looked towards our very exciting next steps.

We then welcomed a keynote speaker, Tamsin Grimmer who has a wealth of experience in supporting Early Years Teachers and educators. Tamsin delivered a fantastic and inspiring talk on ‘loving pedagogy’ (a term she has coined herself), exploring how we can foster a loving pedagogy
through our practice. This involved considering what constitutes a loving pedagogy, learning about different love languages and considering what this looks like in terms of our relational practice, and reviewing and evaluating our practice in the light of a loving pedagogy.

During the afternoon we held numerous excellent training sessions for our staff. These included:
- Supporting Behaviour and Emotions - with Tamsin Grimmer.
- Emotionally Connected Interaction in the Baby Room - with Debbie Brace, who is a highly skilled trainer and specialises in the behaviour and language development of babies and young children.
- Early Identification of SEND - with Ellie Collar, who is a specialist teacher and Educational Therapist.
- An Introduction to Sign Language - with The Signing Company, who was born out of desire to make sign language a skill that is accessible to all, from babies to 101.
- Wellbeing in the Woods - with Gemma and Donna, who have over 10 years of experience delivering forest school sessions and programmes to nurseries schools and holiday clubs and are now in their third year of delivering forest school raining courses.
- Boogiemites - with Lizzie Lock, who runs Boogie Mites in the West Berkshire and South Oxfordshire areas and loves bringing the joys and benefits of music-making to everyone as well as bringing music with nature and sustainable living.
- Leadership Practices - with Zoe Raven who started the first Acorn nursery back in 1989 and has led our organisation since then. Zoe has done a wide variety of training and qualifications, including an MBA; working as an assessor for NVQs and Early Years Professional Status; working as a lecturer for the Open University; working as a trainer for MK Council and is now nearing the end of her doctorate with the University of London. She’s very passionate about training and professional development and is keen to develop more leaders within Acorn to help take the organisation forward.
- The Story Sack Workshop - with Becky Watanabe, who is our Early Years Manager and Consultant and has over 20 years of experience in the Early Years sector. Becky has particular expertise in Enabling Environments, Heuristic Play, Loose Parts and Risky Play.
- Schemas: Understanding Patterns of Play - with Laura Andrews, who is our Senior Early Years Manager and has been in early years for nearly 20 years, gaining her experiences through
being a practitioners, nursery managers and supporting nurseries with consultancy and training. Laura gas a keen interest in safeguarding, compliance and early years curriculum.
- Admin Workshop - with Steve Petty
- Nutritional Analysis of Acorn’s Menus and Recipes - with Alex Hunter
Thank you to all our trainers who joined us during the conference and provided very insightful and inspiring training sessions!

Also thank you to Mark at Crayfish Capers and Eddie and Rebecca at Anderson Catering, for serving up an absolutely delicious lunch for all our staff on the day!


We are already looking forward to our next staff training day in July that will be held specifically for our nurseries in Milton Keynes.