Nursery World Awards 16: Individuals - Trainer of the Year

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Gillian Farren, programme lead, Leicestershire Nutrition and Dietetic Service


Gillian supports childcare settings to meet the Voluntary Food and Drink Guidelines for Early Years Settings as set out by the Children’s Food Trust. As part of this role, she also co-ordinates and acts as principal trainer for Big Cook Little Cook, a community-based family food and health programme supporting parents and their children over a six-week schedule.

Gillian has worked tirelessly to get this programme up and running from scratch and has managed to bring it a long way in just a year. She has not only succeeded in devising all programme resources and setting up the practitioner training programme, family learning programme and accreditation process, but has achieved all this as a newcomer to Leicester.

Gillian has quickly immersed herself in local culture and custom and developed many friendships and alliances which have helped her to find new ways to embed the project further into the community, including through local childminder and breastfeeding support groups.

Through her role as trainer, Gillian also acts as a strong advocate for children’s health in Leicester. As part of this, she is always happy to highlight children’s health issues to local media and political forums when the opportunity arises.

She does her utmost to ensure that the support that her programme offers reaches those most in need, who are often also those most difficult to reach, which includes working hard to ensure that parents, children and early years practitioners alike have received the help that they need to implement healthier eating.

A large proportion of the programme’s supporting resources have been developed from scratch by Gillian, including an online knowledge and feedback platform to allow early years practitioners to build on their face-to-face training in their own time and at their own pace.

In just a year, a total of 62 practitioners and almost 300 families have now benefited from the programme.

Evaluations from families attending Big Cook Little Cook include increased confidence in shopping and preparing food together and trying many of the recipes at home. They report finding the sessions fun and enjoying learning new tips, especially those on how to include children in cooking activities.

Feedback from practitioners includes: ‘The training gave me a better understanding of the portion sizes we need to provide for the children and what types of foods to give that will include the different food groups’; and, ‘My journey has been slow due to myself but I feel I have always got the support.’

Gillian is described as helpful, informative and a pleasure to work with.

‘Gillian’s work is clearly having a positive impact on children, their families and early years settings’ - Judge


Sophie Adams, Academy of Social Work and Early Intervention

Michelle Mitchell, Professional Association for Childcare and Early Years

Rebecca Ralph, Kids Allowed


Open to anyone responsible for training in colleges, training companies or in-house for nursery groups

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