Nursery World Awards 2020 - Trainer of the Year

Friday, February 5, 2021

Vicki Dawson, The Sleep Charity

Vicki Dawson set up the Sleep Charity in 2012 to help prevent other families from having to suffer the devastating impact of sleep deprivation that she suffered as a parent.

In order to share information about sleep and best practice, Vicki devises and delivers a number of training programmes to ensure the information reaches as many families as possible.

Setting up the charity while working as deputy head of an early years centre, she developed the training in her spare time and now delivers sleep training with a passion, outlining her own personal experience and combining it with years of research.

As the organisation does not receive any statutory funding, Vicki’s role is diverse. As well as writing and delivering training, she is responsible for fundraising, HR, managing staff and volunteers, and cleaning.

Vicki’s training is intended to be replicated by professionals to embed support in local communities. She delivers courses nationally to a range of professionals including medical sleep teams supporting the most vulnerable children, many of whom have chronic sleep issues. A research project on the outcomes of this training in Sheffield found that on average, children gained an additional 2.4 hours of sleep per night, while the mental health of the families involved improved.

Her ‘Sleep Talker’ training programme aims to get the nation talking about sleep in order to prevent some of the stigma around sleep issues from occurring. By training volunteers, the programme aims to reach the most vulnerable families who may not feel able to share their issues with a professional.

Vicki also trains postgraduate medical students and provides postgraduate training for students of early years. She was a guest speaker at the British Sleep Society conference this year and has delivered a TEDx talk, sharing her thoughts on why the nation needs to wake up to sleep matters.

During the pandemic, Vicki recognised the need to move training online. With limited resources, she appealed for support from volunteers with IT skills and in June she launched an e-learning platform so the training could continue. Live question and answer sessions are now facilitated through Zoom.

More than 100 learners have gone through the system since it launched, and it has already prevented some families needing to access healthcare support. The training can also now be accessed internationally.

Vicki’s training reaches approximately 30,000 families every year. To date, she has trained approximately 400 sleep practitioners nationally and has worked with approximately 1,000 professionals on her ‘Sleep Tight’ intervention, providing train the trainer opportunities to embed learning in communities across the country.


Edwina Revel and Georgia Leech, Early Start Group

Registered nutritionists Edwina and Georgia are passionate about ensuring young children have access to nutritious and affordable food.

Their online and classroom training supports settings in placing nutrition at the heart of practice. A range of CPD courses for early years settings are available online, via classroom or webinars, with 1,917 modules completed to date. Topics include food and nutrition for infants and toddlers, keeping active in the early years, fussy eating, Vitamin D, food policy, menu planning, oral health and binning the bottle.

Their Cooking and Learning About Food (CALAF) training recognises the role early years settings play in making cooking a fun and engaging way for children to learn about and try new foods. In addition to cooking activities, it provides ways children can explore food through role play, gardening, shopping, songs and stories, all linked to the EYFS framework.


Ben Kingston-Hughes, Inspired Children


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



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