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Under fives and flourishing

Saturday March 18, 9:30 am to 4:00 pm

children in fancy dress

Booking for this event is now closed. Please email Ellie if you have any questions about the event.

Churchdown Community Centre, Parton Rd, Gloucester GL3 2JH

£10/person which includes lunch (max £30/group)

Children’s early experiences have a significant impact on their development, health, and behaviours and ultimately how they see themselves and their place in the world. Ministry and work with under 5s and very young families is an important and specialised area, requiring specific skills, resources and fun!

This day brings together a variety of experienced practitioners who understand the needs of our youngest children and the adults who care for them and can offer insight and inspiration about this important age group and stage of family life. Keynote speaker: Louise Dalton and Dr Elizabeth Rapa from the Oxford Brain Story.

Click here to download the Under five and flourishing leaflet


E Rapa L DaltonKey Note Address – The Importance of Early Years for Lifelong Health – Oxford Brain Story
Dr Elizabeth Rapa and Dr Louise Dalton

This keynote is relevant to anyone who works with children, families or adults. The session will focus on how we can use scientific understanding to improve outcomes for both children and adults in the future.

The brain story is a story for everyone as we all depend on those around us for the experiences that build our brains. This forms the foundation on which our future learning, behaviour and health is built. Using engaging and memorable metaphors, The Oxford Brain Story team will be introducing you to the science of brain development; this is essential information for everybody to understand how our earliest experiences can affect our long term mental and physical health.

Dr Louise Dalton is a consultant clinical psychologist with over 20 years NHS experience and Dr Elizabeth Rapa is a senior postdoctoral researcher. Under the leadership of Professor Alan Stein, the Child and Adolescent Psychiatry group at the University of Oxford focusses on making the key mechanisms underpinning child development clear. Their work includes a focus on how difficulties are passed between generations when people experience adversity. In partnership with the Alberta Family Wellness Initiative the Brain Story aims to make neuroscience accessible to frontline workers and the wider community, and helps to us use this scientific understanding to improve outcomes for both children and adults in the future.

Workshop A – Building Brains for Lifelong Health – Dr Elizabeth Rapa and Dr Louise Dalton
In this workshop, participants will be building children’s brains using dice, straws and pipe cleaners! The Brain Architecture Game provides a fun and visual way to learn about what shapes
a child’s brain over the first seven years of life and the crucial role that we all play in building the foundations for children’s lifelong physical and mental health.
The Oxford Brain Story team works at the University of Oxford’s Department of Psychiatry and are passionate about the importance of public health messaging around children’s development and the impact of adversity on long term outcomes. Their workshop is designed to appeal to anyone who works with children, adults or parents and wants to learn more about how and why our early experiences matter.

Workshop B – Exploring the world of our neuro-diverse children within our churches today – Sarah Major
If our brains are as unique as our fingertips (Emmanuel Lafont) how may we incorporate this uniqueness into our churches, with a specific focus on under 5s?

Sarah graduated from University of Chichester in 2009 with BA Hons Music and has since gone on to study awards in Autism and Asperger Syndrome at Postgraduate level. During the first 10 years of her working career, Sarah spent her time assisting young people and their families with an aim to remove obstacles and enable access to learning for each child through an individualised and pupil-centred approach. Working alongside parents and a wide range of professionals, Sarah took pride in working to ensure positive outcomes for our young people within Gloucestershire.
Sarah has worked within the Education sector for all her working career and joined Diocese of Gloucester in 2019.

Workshop C – Music with under 5s – Gill Heron
A practical session including songs, rhymes and instruments with ideas and resources to take away. No specific skills required, please come prepared to join in and have fun!

Gill loves to sing, with adults and children. She’s been fortunate to have worked as a primary music specialist with children from pre school to 11 years old and has been involved with toddler groups for the last 15 years. Gill currently teaches music part time in a pre school setting.


Workshop D – The Spirituality of Under 5s and Play – The Revd Mary Hawes
Children play – it’s what they do. In this workshop we will explore the place of play in the development and flourishing of under 5s, including their spiritual lives. A lively mix of theory and practice will help ground our understanding and enhance our praxis.

Until recently, Mary Hawes was the national Children and Youth Adviser for the Church of England. She serves as part of the clergy team in a parish in Teddington, chairs the Governing Body of the local primary school and continues to advocate for children and young people to be heard in every area of church life. In her spare time, she loosely follows Watford FC, watches far too much low-brow television, and enjoys discovering small-batch craft gins.


Workshop E – The Untapped Opportunity of Church Toddler Groups – Jennifer Fellows
Church based toddler groups are special! With 74% of parents with a child under 5 attending a church led toddler group in the year prior to Covid, these groups present the church with an
incredible opportunity.

In this seminar we will be exploring some recent research into how those with no church connection perceive our groups. We will also hear examples and share resources from around the country of how different churches have been using their toddler groups as a springboard to welcome in new families.

Jennifer has worked in children’s and families ministry for the last ten years but is currently loving a year without organising rotas due to being on maternity leave.

As one of the strange people who really enjoys studying, Jennifer is currently finishing her masters looking at how best to train clergy in the Church of England for successful children’s ministry. She begins training for ordination in September and is hoping to continue this research as part of her training.

Jennifer lives in Gloucester with her husband, her baby son and their incredibly needy dog! When not studying or trying to get her baby to sleep, you’ll find her playing netball or trying out a new recipe.


This day couldn’t be possible without generous support from Sylvanus Lysons.


Saturday March 18
9:30 am to 4:00 pm
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Jo Wetherall


Churchdown Community Centre
Parton Road
Gloucester, GL3 2JH
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"I have come that they may have LIFE, and have it to the full." ~ John 10:10