Safeguarding and Protecting Every Child – Conference Feedback   1 comment

The Preamble (Skip if you want to – but you might find it interesting!)

This conference was a landmark one because it was the FIRST national Early Years Safeguarding and Child Protection Conference. It was held on Friday 4th November and was the not only the brain child of my friend and colleague Laura Henry, it was also the result of a lot of planning, hard work, commitment and time on her part.

Laura had mentioned to me much earlier in the year (well before it was generally public knowledge) that she wanted me to be a speaker for one of the workshops. I agreed – and from then on started to panic!

By September requests for my presentation to be emailed over, were made by Juliette (Laura’s admin person) and suddenly it was all very real – I knew that the website information was available, I knew that people were booking, but I had been hiding behind the ‘it is not until November’ shield and had convinced myself that I had loads of time.

So presentation was written and sent – and I went back to having my head in the sand about my workshop but also to being very busy with general life, article writing, foster care, grandchildren and so on.

Roll onto Wednesday 2nd November – should have been graduation day for me – but it didn’t happen due to other people messing things up. I was very upset, very emotional and not at all in the mood for facing my own personal fears about going to London and speaking at a national conference – oh, or meeting with colleagues from Save the Children (which was planned for during my London Trip).

However, I am not the sort of person to let people down, so I packed my bags and put on my best smile, and on Thursday 3rd November was en route to London via various trains and a total of 4 hours travelling. On this occasion my destination was Euston – which is not my normal arrival station. However I have used it before and have a fairly good idea of where things are. First was the meeting with Save the Children colleagues (blog available if interested) and then I headed off on the underground to Canary Wharf. I have been to Canary Wharf once before but it was quite a while ago and once I got there I realised that I was not going in the same direction as last time and did not really know which direction to go in!

So I wandered about a bit and looked at several maps and my printed directions. It all looked straight forward – but I was lost! I crossed a road thinking it was in the general right direction – and lucky for me a very nice Police Officer (with a dog) stopped me and asked if I needed any help because he had noticed me walking up and down a few times. Once I had explained, he kindly walked me a little way towards where I needed to go, and then pointed and gave me very good directions. I am glad he did because I am not sure I would have found the hotel if he had not.

I checked into the hotel that had been paid for by Laura as part of my expenses for attending – and was soon in my hotel room on the 4th floor. I was on a bit of a mission because I wanted to write a blog about my meeting with Save the Children and get it published before I went out to dinner in the evening – and I did succeed. I also was busy via text – to Laura, to home and to a colleague- Rachel Buckler who was staying in the same hotel.

By 18.30, I am changed and ready to go downstairs for prearranged drinks with Laura and Rachel. We were joined by others connected to the conference and we all enjoyed a pre-dinner drink and some networking before walking the short distance to the dinner venue – but via the long route!

Once at the venue we meet up with John Carnochan whose name I had heard of but who I had never met before. Over dinner I was to have several conversation with John and I discovered I really liked what he had to say both personally and professionally, but I am jumping the gun a bit!

Others joined us for dinner – Dr Eunice Lumsden, Debbie Alcock, Ann Marie Christian and Laura’s admin Juliette – plus of course Laura, Rachel and myself. We were sat at a window table overlooking the Docklands – all those high impressive buildings, the 02 arena and the Thames; I had to pinch myself a few times – what was I, Penny Webb doing in such a place with those experts? I never think of myself as an expert or of being worthy of being involved in these sorts of things – self-doubt of course and all as a result of my own life experiences.

The life experience bit was reassuring in a way – because it links so closely to the reasons why this conference was happening – and why I was involved. Despite my lack of confidence – others do seem to think that I am knowledgeable and should be involved. I guess I will never really change – I will always be nervous, I will always have self-doubt, – but one thing is certain, I will continue to be driven by my passion to do whatever I can to make a difference.

Over dinner I did a lot of listening, and a bit of talking. I found the dinner table conversations to be fascinating – so many personal stories, so much experience, so much knowledge – and to my surprise I could contribute, I could add my own stories and my own experiences – and people were interested. John was interested in my stories connected to fostering, Eunice was interested in my journey to gaining my degree and my work within early years; Rachel, Anne Marie and Debbie were interested in what I thought about things. Maybe I should have more faith – lots of people tell me I should, some even tell me off for not ‘selling’ myself enough (or at all). I have a lot to be thankful to Laura for – because her support, and her encouragement have opened a lot of doors for me – including starting my blog, being a speaker at the conference – and for lots of introductions to the people I now engage with.

There were a few issues with the dinner as the venue was unable to meet my dietary requirements – despite having forewarning. The service in general was pretty rubbish with delays and people not having things like spoons to eat soup or forks to eat mains, or even all being served at the same time. I know Laura will have raised this as an issue and I hope the bill reflected this – as Laura paid as part of the ‘package’ for speakers. However, it has to be said the poor service did not have an impact on networking between us.

We returned back to the hotel – this time via the short route (which really was VERY short), and were joined by Jennie Johnson, a colleague known to many of us via the Ofsted Big Conversation and of course her MBE awarded by the Queen in the 2016 Birthday Honours. We chatted for a while before people (including me) started heading off to bed – although I believe some stayed chatting into the early hours.


The Main Event (welcome to those who skipped the preamble)

I was up early – well before 5am, something to do with nerves and not wanting to be late. I showered, had a coffee, checked emails, and text Laura who was also up at silly O’Clock. By 6am, I am downstairs having another coffee and some mini pastries (as full breakfast not available until a bit later). By 6.50, I have checked out and I am ready as promised to travel with Laura and Juliette to the venue for the conference and to help set up. Only thing is when the taxi driver arrived, I was ready and so was Juliette – but Laura was still having her breakfast! I wish I had thought to take a photo (but guess Laura is glad I didn’t) as it was quite funny to see Laura clutching drink and food in her hand while rushing out to get in the taxi. Even the taxi driver was concerned about Laura and her hot drink on the go. Still we arrived at the venue without any drink spillage, and entered the very impressive venue. Juliette and I checked in and were handed our conference badges- but there was a problem – Laura could not check in because there is not a badge for her!!!

The badge issue was quickly sorted and we headed to the lifts and to the 32nd floor – due to my fear of heights, my dislike of closed in spaces, and my difficulties with fast moving anything – this was not something that I enjoyed. We got out of the lift and walked the short distance to the conference space – which I discovered after a quick ‘get your barring’s’ walk round – was HUGE. I also discovered that there were huge windows to one side of all of the rooms being used taking advantage of views across the docklands. I am sure everyone who attended would have not failed to notice this – in fact I know they didn’t because of the number of photo’s on social media. However for me it was a bit of a problem because of course I don’t like heights.

Anyway there was no time for looking out of windows at this point because there was work to do – and the reason why we had arrived just after 7am. I got stuck into helping sort out the Goody Bags by putting the last minute things into the bags. I should have also helped arrange them on the tables in alphabetical order – but as usual my inability to do this, without going through the alphabet song in my head for every bag meant I was far too slow – so I let others do this! Throughout this time other people were arriving to help – many of whom I knew, so hugs were exchanged. Speakers were also arriving – and so workshop rooms were found, the main conference room found – and of course the restrooms and cloakroom. Laura had arranged for breakfast to be provided for all delegates (as many will have had an early start) but she also arranged for those helping to have breakfast earlier during the set up time. I say Laura arranged – what I meant was Laura thought of it and Juliette made the arrangements.

Once the Goody Bags were finished – I went to see the room that I would be using – it looked great – but – yes you have guessed right – one whole wall was a window! I did venture towards the window and took a photo, but regretted it because I felt sick, and my legs were wobbling. I checked the equipment (with the help of Juliette and an IT man from the venue) a few issues were resolved, and I was shown how to use the Walkie Talkie should I need to call for help during my workshop.

Luckily by now delegates were arriving in their droves, so I was busy saying hello to people, giving directions to new arrivals and it has to be said spending a fair amount of time in the breakfast area because this was the one space without a window!

Time was already going quickly, and before I knew it, we were being asked to take our seats for the conference to start.

As usual, I will not be giving a word for word account of Keynotes or the workshops because that is not fair to the speakers or to those who paid to attend. However, I will be giving my personal overview – and where possible links to information about the speakers, so that readers can find out more if they want to.

We were welcomed by the Chair of the conference Dr. Julian Grenier. I have met Julian on several occasions, including on the trip to Keilhau in Germany to ‘re discover Froebel’. For those of you who do not know Julian this is the link to his Linkiedn profile which tells you a bit about him, and gives links to his posts etc.

Julian’s job for the day was to ensure everything kept to time, to give a brief recap of the events – and to introduce the speakers – the first of which was Laura. Many people call Laura ‘Lovely Laura’ because she is such a lovely person – but also because she always looks so smart – and today she was wearing a lovely orange dress and her ‘trademark’ red shoes.

Laura welcome us, and explained why she had organised this this conference – and why it had taken 4 years to get from first idea to today’s event.

KEYNOTE ONE – John Carnochan

Those paying attention to my ramblings will know John was one of my dinner companions – and that I had found I liked what he had to say. However by the end of John’s keynote, I more than liked what he had to say – I loved it – and I noted he even included a few words that I had mentioned over dinner.

John is from Scotland and was an active Police Officer for about 40 years – he is not an early year’s trained person. However, during his work with the Crime Reduction Unit, he realised that everything can be traced back to a child’s early years’ experience.

This next bit is taken from the information on the conference website – so not my words

A child who is the victim of any adverse childhood experience will be significantly disadvantaged throughout their life. Knowing and understanding the circumstances that impact negatively on children’s well-being provides an opportunity to increase protective factors and reduce risk factors.

Primary prevention through the development of safe, stable and nurturing relationships between children and their caregivers must become a key component of national strategy and be placed at the heart of all our collaborative efforts.

 I totally agree with John – and I also believe although early years education, and the quality of early years settings is important – it is not the only factor that needs to be considered.

For those of you who like me have heard of the name John Carnochan – but don’t know much about him – the following link gives some information

John spoke with passion and conviction that all though he may not always be ‘spot on’ he is going in the right direction – and making a difference.

One of the things that I have remembered from John’s speech is a recall from him about a conference that he attended – where a group of young people who are in the looked after system or are care leavers all stood up holding their paper hearts. Their message was simple – we want to be loved – we want to live as normal family life as possible with our foster families – we do not want ‘services’ provided, we want to be loved.

So very powerful – and I personally think this message of wanting to be loved applies to all children and young people. It is the most important aspect – even those who live in poverty can (and do) achieve good well-being and achieve their personal outcomes (which please note are not the same as Government imposed outcomes)

I could say a lot more about John’s keynote – but I will say no more – other than if you have opportunity to hear him speak – I recommend that you do so.

Next on the programme of events were the morning workshops – which included mine – and also Debbie Alcock of Influential Childcare Training on the subject Disqualification; and Susan Taylor of Tailormade Training Solutions on the subject of Working with Children Subject to Child Protection Plans. Of course I could not attend either Debbie’s or Susan’s workshops as I was busy doing mine.

For those who want to find out more here is a link to Debbie’s Linkedin Profile

and one for Susan


My workshop was – even if I say so myself was a success. It was about

Looked After Children/Transitions and Safeguarding.

This is the description (that I wrote) from the conference website

Safeguarding children is vital and all adults have a duty to safeguard all children. However, as shown through serious case reviews (SCR), not only do adults sometimes fail to work together and to share information to safeguard children; many also do not look at the bigger picture or consider safeguarding in the widest sense. Lack of knowledge, understanding and in some cases even common sense, can lead to children being expected to undertake academic tasks, daily routines, and even play experiences that they are not yet ready for due to gaps in their development, their emotional well-being and resilience levels – and most importantly their ability to trust adults who have, in generic terms, let them down in the past. This workshop will explore how we can support all children, but in particular those who are in the Looked After system, and those who experience difficult home lives.


I am not going to say any more about it – other than to say if people would like me to do a similar presentation for them (it would be similar but not the same) then please do get in touch.

The reason I know it was a success is because people asked questions and I could see most were paying full attention (rather than looking out of the window), and several came up and spoke to me about how the workshop had already made them reflect and start to think about various things that I had spoken about.

OH and that ‘window wall’ – I did not cope well! I felt sick, my legs were wobbly, I did my best not to look out of it or stand near it – but it still had an impact. I ended up stood as far from the window as possible – and leaning against a table – in fact two tables that were in a ‘L’ shape. However, the point is I did cope – and although I did not move about as much as usual I don’t think it affected my presentation too much (well I hope it didn’t)

After morning workshops there was a refreshment break, I grabbed a coffee and had a quick look at the stalls, but time was short due to the number of people who spoke to me at the end of my workshop (and I am not complaining, as I love feedback)


We took our seats in the main room, and Julian did a quick recap before introducing up to Eunice Lumsden – who of course was another of my dinner companions the night before – and as it happened Eunice was also sat next to me in the front row of the main room in our reserved seats, so I had spoken to her briefly several times while waiting for the conference to start.

I loved the title of Eunice’s keynote –

What has the Early Years got to do with it? EVERYTHING!

I totally agree – and so of course did John in his keynote earlier.

This is the blurb from the conference website about Eunice’s keynote

Children are more likely to experience a range of traumatic experiences in the Early Years, including child abuse and the consequences of living in environments where domestic violence and drug and alcohol abuse are prevalent, also when they suffer accidents, that’s why it’s important to always take them on a good and safe stroller from baby stroller center. These experiences can impact across the life course and the cost to the individual and society can be immense.

This presentation challenges us to think about the rights of our youngest children to a professionalised Early Years workforce that understands their role in all areas of early childhood trauma. A workforce that proactively creates safe, nurturing environments and that promotes aspiration and life chances for all children.

As always just a few words from me about Eunice’s keynote – the thing that stuck out to me was that Eunice although supporting professional development and degree level workforce, she was also saying that we need practitioners at all levels and that all should be valued. She said that level 2’s should be the best they can, same for level 3’s and so on. I thought back to my conversation with Eunice over dinner about the route I had taken and my late (in terms of career development) gaining of my degree.

I was also interested in Eunice’s experiences as a social worker and how this helped inform her about the importance of early years.

For those of you who would like to read more about Eunice – this is the link to some information from the University of Northampton


Julian then did another quick recap before we all headed off for lunch, networking and opportunity to look at the stalls.

There was a huge array of lunch available but unfortunately none of the mains were suitable. Laura made sure that I did get something to eat – and I was directed to the chef who rose to the occasion and provided a plain pan fried chicken breast and some vegetables. Desserts were also plentiful, and met my dietary needs. I ate my lunch with Wendy Baker and Carmen Powell – both of whom I had engaged with on Social Media but never met before – thank you ladies it was really good to chat in person and share our thoughts about the conference and early years in general.

Straight after lunch we were treated to Keynote THREE – this one was by Professor Dame Donna Kinnair – Head of Nursing, RCN and on the subject of ‘Lessons learnt from Serious Case Reviews’

I loved the way Donna started her keynote – it was with – Well Laura has asked me to speak about this – and the quick answer is ‘not a lot’ !

Donna’s point was we have learnt what happened, and have some thoughts about why these things happen, but we really have not learnt that much because of our culture to blame people. This she says is not helpful as none of those blamed – family members or professional woke up with the intention for those things to happen, and each person is different and would do things differently – so how can lessons be learned?

Of course – things are learned – what works (and how come no one talks about the things that work) and these include all those things we know are good practice and support well being and improved outcomes. Donna drew on her work as a health visitor and working in the communities. I shall say no more about Donna’s keynote – other than it was fascinating and made me reflect in a different way about the Serious Case Reviews.

If you would like to find out more about Donna and her work, here is a link to her Linkedin profile – actually it does not say a lot but it is a starting point

It was then time for afternoon workshops – I was going to sit in on one, but admit that by now I was starting to flag – and so I sat in the refreshment area (which if you remember did not have a window) and had some more coffee and some cake.

The afternoon workshop presenters were

Rachel Buckler of Safeguarding Training Ltd on the subject of Leading and Managing Safe Practice in Early Years. Here is a link to information about Rachel

Ann Marie Christian who is a Specialist Education Safeguarding Consultant on the subject of Safer Recruitment in the Early Years. Click on link for information about Ann Marie


Andrew Ellery of AE Social Care & Education Limited on the subject of Effective referrals – Maximising response. A bit more information about Andrew via link


The final Keynote (number FOUR) was by Jane Evans. I have met Jane before and engaged via social media, so I knew we were going to have a great keynote – and we did!

This is what it says on the conference website about Jane

Jane Evans is widely known for her TEDxBristol talk on childhood anxiety, ‘Taming and Tending Your Meerkat Brain’. She began her career with children and families over two decades ago working in pre-schools and as a childminder, family support and parenting worker, and as a foster carer. Jane is now a renowned TV, radio and social media parenting and childhood trauma expert.

Jane combines her vast experience of working with families with complex needs with her knowledge of the latest neuroscience and attachment research. She regularly speaks to, and trains, others to understand and use this in their direct work with children and families. Jane is a sought-after parenting and anxiety coach and an acclaimed author of four books for children, which support complex needs.

And about her keynote

A child’s brain and body is created and constructed by daily experiences of nurturing and self-soothing. When this is absent, erratic, aggressive or detached it causes stress and fear in the developing child, which increases their vulnerability in daily life. It is important to understand this when we look at protecting children and increasing their physical and emotional safety.


I am going to add very little about Jane’s keynote – it was filled with facts, passion and a good deal of moving about and being expressive. Jane is a big one for advocating ‘grounding’ for adults and children – by physically moving your feet and connecting with the ground – it is excellent advice as are all the other things she says. I recommend you watch her TedXtalk

For some more information about Jane click on the link

There was a short panel session – which was good but time was against us. Julian brought the conference to a close, and Laura had a few words to say as well, and received a well-deserved round of heartfelt applause.

There was just time for me to write my reflection words on one of the pre cut butterflies and hang it on the tree, before saying my goodbyes, collecting my things from the cloakroom and heading off in the rush hour with Rachel as my travelling companion – well at least as far as Euston. I always think I am a bit of a novice at the whole tube thing, but when with someone like Rachel who uses the tube less than I do – I realise that actually I know quite a lot now about tubes!

I had time for a drink with Rachel at Euston, before she had to catch her train. I had another hour to wait and a slow journey home – but arrived home before midnight tired but motivated by all the inspirational speakers – and quite pleased with my own small part in it.

Huge thanks to Laura for organizing it all, to Juliette for all the support she gave, to all the speakers and those with stalls – and to everyone who attended.

Already looking forward to the next one – maybe see you there?















Posted November 11, 2016 by psw260259 in My thoughts on current childcare issues

One response to “Safeguarding and Protecting Every Child – Conference Feedback

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  1. Thanks, for sharing your experience Penny… Save the date colleagues for next year.. Friday 3rd November 2017…

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