They discussed developments in their settings, how they managed to spark change with their staff members, and what was ahead. In some cases the individual who spoke with such knowledge and confidence had started out months before showing reluctance to say anything, uncertain about her own skills as a professional.
This kind of deep learning doesn't come from a single training day. Each of these events followed a lengthy programme of training inputs, gap tasks, individual action planning, group reflection, and ongoing support from the local authority early years team which organised the programmes, targeting settings most likely to benefit, and visiting them between meetings.
Yet the Government plans to remove the local authority role in improving practice.
Instead, Ofsted appears to be taking over the roles of both the now-defunct National Strategies and local early years teams.
Ofsted has proposed a larger role for itself, citing inspection results which it claims show that despite steady improvement under the EYFS, the current arrangements aren't good enough. Yet over three years the proportion of good and outstanding settings has grown significantly - from 65 per cent to 74 per cent - while profile results at the end of the EYFS show steady gains for children.
The Government wants Ofsted to be the 'sole arbiter of quality' and plans to remove both the requirement and the funds for LAs to carry out a quality improvement role. It says that practitioners are best placed to judge their own training and development needs. But often we don't know what we don't know, and Ofsted itself has judged the 'capacity of the provision to maintain continuous improvement' as the weakest element across the sector.
Professional leadership in settings is not as well-established as in schools. Cutting settings adrift from LA help and leaving Ofsted as the sole guide is a dangerous strategy.