The speakers are as follows: (in programme order)


Julian Grenier, Headteacher, Sheringham Nursery School and Children's Centre

Julian has worked in the early years since 1993. He is the author of several best-selling books on early years education and care. He has a doctorate in education from the Institute of Education, based on his research into the views of practitioners working with two-year-olds in private and community nurseries. 

Julian was the senior Early Years Adviser to Tower Hamlets from 2010-2012.

He is currently the headteacher of Sheringham Nursery School and Children’s Centre in Newham, which is a Research School and a National Teaching School.

Sheringham is also one of London’s three Early Years Hubs, supported by the Mayor of London.

Laura Gardiner, research director of the Resolution Foundation

Laura joined the Resolution Foundation in March 2014. She oversees the organisation’s work in a range of areas including the labour market, taxes, welfare and social mobility. She also specialises in intergenerational issues, and during 2016-18 was secretary to the Intergenerational Commission.

Prior to joining the Resolution Foundation Laura spent four years at the Centre for Economic and Social Inclusion, where she worked on unemployment, young people, welfare reform and housing. Laura studied social and political sciences at Cambridge University before completing a master’s degree in public policy at Brown University in the USA.

Gill Jones, Ofsted early education deputy director

Gill Jones is one of Her Majesty’s Inspectors and joined Ofsted in 2007, leading inspections of schools and children’s centres. She is the deputy director for early education policy, introducing the Early Years common inspection framework, and is responsible for the Early Years annual reports. Before joining Ofsted, Gill was a consultant leader for the National College, training new and aspiring head teachers and school improvement partners. She was the head teacher of two primary schools, during which time she set up out-of-school provision and holiday clubs including day care for under-fives. She subsequently became a senior inspector for Wirral LA, with responsibility for primary education. Gill has held a number of roles in Ofsted, including senior HMI in the East of England and principal officer for the inspection policy of maintained primary schools.

Pennie Akehurst, managing director of Early Years Fundamentals

Pennie Akehurst is an author and leadership specialist with over 30 years’ experience in the early years. Pennie has worked in the private, voluntary, maintained and public sector, and spent 17 years delivering strategic early years and childcare priorities within two local authorities; during this time, she provided training and intervention programmes designed to support leadership teams to improve outcomes for children and to manage changes to legislation.

In 2017, Pennie established Early Years Fundamentals Ltd., a research, training and consultancy company dedicated to supporting leaders and managers to understand and manage issues that affect inspection outcomes.

Julie Hyde, CACHE director

Julie has extensive experience of management in the childcare and education sectors, having previously gained commercial sales and training experience working in industry as both a regional and national account manager.

Julie joined CACHE in 2010 as a regional manager and in 2011 was appointed senior national development manager. In 2013 she was promoted to director of business development where she directed the development of high-quality vocational qualifications.

Today, as CACHE director, Julie ensures that our reputation as the UK’s leading sector specialist endures and that our qualifications continue to improve the skills level and professional standards of the childcare workforce.

Michael Freeston, Early Years Alliance director of quality improvement

Michael has worked for the Alliance for 16 years. He coordinates all aspects of the Alliance’s quality improvement support to the early years sector, including policy and procedures development, inclusion, workforce development and training. He also represents the Alliance on a range of policy forums with DfE, Ofsted and Cache.

He was a member of the expert panel advising the Nutbrown review of early years qualifications and workforce development in 2012 and member of the advisory group for the Children’s Workforce Development Council for England until its demise in April 2012. He was a Trustee of CACHE (Council for Awards in Care, Health and Education) until July 2015.

His background is in adult community education working as a further education lecturer and then working for The Workers’ Educational Association between 1995 and 2003.

Cheryl Hadland, founder of Tops Day Nurseries and campaigner for eco-sustainability with GECCO (Green Early Years Choices Champions Organisation)

Cheryl Hadland is founder and managing director of Tops Day Nurseries, an organically expanding group of 30 day nurseries across the South Coast.  She also initiated the formation of the APPG for early years, providing an opportunity for MPs of all parties to hear from witnesses in the sector and to try to improve issues such as under funding, business rates, training and respect for those working in the early years in the interests of our smallest citizens and the future. She also founded and is chair of trustees of GECCO, a charity started to share best practice in sustainability in early years, in the belief that providing this is far too important to not share sector and community wide.

Dr Jo Verrill, managing director of Ceeda, which runs About Early Years

Jo is the founder and managing director of Ceeda, independent analysts of the childcare and early education sector. Jo has worked with the sector for almost two decades, conducting research to inform grassroots practice, and local and national government policy. A leading provider of market, customer and workforce intelligence for the sector, Jo recently led Ceeda’s launch of the About Early Years research programme, a research panel of over 2,300 childcare providers established to deliver authoritative sector analysis for providers, investors and policy makers. Her early career was in health and social care research at Durham, Northumbria and Newcastle upon Tyne universities. 

Jan Dubiel, independent consultant and member of the DfE EYFS advisory panel

Jan Dubiel is a nationally and internationally recognised specialist in early childhood education. He was identified by the Times Educational Supplement as one of the ten most influential people in British education in 2018.

He has worked as a YN, YR and Y1 teacher, Senior leader, Consultant and adviser and national lead on the management of the (Early Years) Foundation Stage Profile with QCA and head of national and international development at Early Excellence.

Jan has developed a national and international reputation as a conference speaker, consultant and trainer and he has written widely on different aspects of early years policy, pedagogy and practice. His first book “Effective Assessment in the EYFS” was published by SAGE in 2014.

Laura Upton, Chair, Early Years Trailblazer Group

Workforce improvement advisor at Leicestershire County Council and chair of the Early Years Trailblazer Group tasked with developing Early Years Specific Level 5 and Level 6 Apprenticeship Standards.  Laura has improving outcomes for children at the heart of her philosophical approach and she has a commitment to workforce development that is evidenced through her work and reputation over the last ten years.  Laura believes high quality qualifications and CPD training are key to raising the quality of the workforce which impacts the quality of early years provisions.  Laura is a champion for the early years sector and is committed to raising its profile.

Hayley Wood, co-Chair, Early Years Trailblazer Group working on Levels 5 and 6 

Hayley has worked at the University of Derby for six years. For the last three years, Hayley has held the role of head of discipline, leading successful programmes of initial teacher education (ITE) for the FE and skills, secondary and HE sectors. Prior to this, Hayley held a number of roles in both the secondary and FE sectors, including senior leadership team roles, specialising in 14-19 education. Hayley holds a BSc in management, an MA in education, QTS, QTLS and fellowship of advance HE.

Committed and passionate about the development of teachers, Hayley is proud to lead one of only five outstanding providers of ITE for the sector.

Leading a team of experienced teacher educators, Hayley shares the vision of the team of fostering new teaching talent through a blend of research informed academic studies and professional practice experiences.