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In October, the annual judging day for the very prestigious 20th National NMT Awards 2022 returned. For the past few years I have had the great pleasure of being invited to judge the awards alongside many hugely experienced, highly respected and well known early years professionals including chief executives, providers, consultants and industry suppliers.

I have sincerely enjoyed each occasion but none more so than the most recent experience which was simply overwhelming to say the least. We are all very much aware of the many challenges faced within our most amazing early years sector. Covid -19 has made a significant impact on us all especially those within early years who have yet to receive the recognition they richly deserve. Everyone who works in our most valued sector knows only too well just how precious it is and to continue to fight and be heard is an ongoing struggle. But for one special day we came together in the most amazing environment to recognise some of the very best in our industry and to acknowledge their spectacular practice day in and day out.

It is a wonderful achievement to be nominated in the first instance and to reach the finals is remarkable as each and every entrant is unique and very special but to receive that recognition from so many respected and experienced professionals is outstanding. The judging day was held at Barclays HQ Canary Wharf London itself a very poignant building as many years ago as a school leaver, I started my working career some 42 years ago at Barclays Bank so felt as though I was returning to where it all started which was quite emotional.

After registration, refreshments and a beautiful warm welcome from Briony Richter, editor we got down to business. Having previously studied the applications and watched the finalist videos we were required to select our chosen winners for each category. It was such a difficult task having to select an outright winner as they were all so deserving of an award, however some categories were less eventful than others. Having as many as 8 – 10 judges in each category some required lots of discussion which made it even more interesting. The planning, organising and hard work that goes into putting the videos together is quite something and all the more reason for it to be a privilege to be part of such a memorable day. Some categories needed a little more time and consideration providing some interesting debates. Whilst we were not judging all the categories, It was a great opportunity to meet and network with so many high profile and well know figures within our sector. We all had a fabulous day and it was such a delight to observe the very best of what early years has to offer, so inspiring and empowering. It’s quite obvious we all took something away from it. Each of the finalists are following a different journey and at a different stage, all full of excitement; who knows where that will lead them.

Overall the day provided a great sense of togetherness and reassurance that we work in the most wonderful of industries and it’s so much more than a job. The responsibilities are huge but the difference we’re all making to children’s and families lives every day is far greater.

We are so looking forward to The 20th National NMT Awards ceremony on 19 November at Park Plaza, Westminster Bridge London. With 23 awards to present it’s going to be quite a spectacular event, let’s hope we see you all there to celebrate another astonishing NMT finale. Whatever it is you aspire to be or achieve you must always follow your dreams, who knows one day it could you making it to the finals and being recognised at the most prestigious awards ceremony in the calendar.

Best wishes and good luck to all the finalist!

QUESTIONS FOR OUR JUDGE

How does it feel to be a judge?

It’s a real honour and a privilege to be invited to join the judging panel and each year it really doesn’t get any easier.

What makes it so special?

The amazing people make it so special, the finalists, the judges, the NMT organisers and of course it’s the biggest event in the early years calendar not one to be missed.

Do you always agree?

We don’t always agree but that’s the beauty of the judging day and the reason why we’re all so passionate about early years with so many different and visionary ideas, that’s good isn’t it.

What did you learn from it?

That there are so many other like minded people, so inspirational and every day we learn something new to take back to our own settings changing children lives.

How can it best improve you as a person?

Being a judge has helped me immensely both personally and professionally, it really helps you to appreciate all the little things you take for granted and have more consideration for what you really value the most.

What was the overall experience like for you?

Its one of the highlights of my calendar and it’s the most rewarding experience.

Is this the first time as a judge?

No this is my fifth year as an NMT judge and although it’s much harder to choose a winner each year, it’s so fulfilling on the evening to think you’ve contributed to that deserving award. I often wonder for the winners, what next?

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