Kiddi Caru’s new-look, responsive website and use of multiple social media channels makes it easy for parents to find information about the company, its settings, and what their child has been up to, leading to an increase in traffic and new enquiries. To attract new staff, the website allows potential candidates to register their details, which is proving very popular. A secure login area allows parents and staff to have a two-way conversation and view photos of children taking part in activities. Kiddi Caru uses Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest and Linkedin, and has recently launched a YouTube channel, featuring videos demonstrating activity sessions.
Highly commended: Child's Play Private Nursery
When the father of a child in Co-operative Childcare Newburn’s care was told he had terminal cancer, the nursery provided immense support to the family. Staff decided to raise money for the hospice that cared for him to repair a broken fountain there. The nursery held numerous fundraising events, including fancy dress days, sponsored walks, cake sales, fun days and a charity night. The nursery raised more than £3,900 for Marie Curie and in memory of Tia’s father.The hospice was able to install a new fountain. Staff at the setting have set themselves a new challenge to raise £10,000 for two children’s charities.
At Little Barn Owls Nursery and Farm School, on a working farm, children have access to a one-acre garden, an allotment, a forest school programme, a ‘farm school’ with pigs, chickens, ducks, rabbits, guinea pigs and quails, and two purpose-built art studios, each staffed by a permanent artist-in-residence. Underpinning the nursery’s practice is a set of strong values as well as a commitment to creativity and outdoor learning. It has found inspiration in the pedagogy of Reggio Emilia pre-schools, so adopts an enquiry-based approach to learning and strives to provide a child-centred and inspiring environment that is valued as ‘an important educator in the knowledge building process’.
Highly commended: Dukes and Duchesses
Jennifer McQuillan started work as a childminder in 2007 in south-west London, but since 2013 has grown Jenniflowers Childcare to a team of 20 offering a home nursery; a day nursery; a pre-school; an after-school club; wraparound care and a Rest & Play SEND playgroup, together serving up to 120 children a day. Not content to stop there, Jenniflowers is in talks to offer holiday camps, is opening a further pre-school in 2016 and is extending the Rest & Play group to two more premises. Jennifer sees her business as a community service, and says, ‘Our aim is to make a difference and to touch lives.’
Dukes and Duchesses is a private day nursery in Liverpool city centre, which has made building a strong, capable and reflective workforce a priority. Many staff have gained high-level qualifications while working at the setting, and have areas of expertise for which they seek out additional training, which enables them to become specialists. Dukes and Duchesses has used its training to support other practitioners in the sector, and has been designated a hub of good practice. The nursery is also a partner setting with Edgehill University and is recognised as an exemplary place for students to experience exciting and innovative provision.
Training Depot Day Nursery
At Elmscot Day Nursery, mealtimes are valued as a learning opportunity. Staff discuss ingredients with children and talk about making healthy choices. The nursery’s 10-week rolling menus, devised by chef Mark Brooke and kitchen assistant Rebecca Heywood, provide a variety of foods reflecting a diversity of cultures and tastes. Where possible, the nursery uses seasonal fruit and vegetables and locally sourced produce. Recently the nursery introduced a ‘Seed to Plate’ project to support children in understanding where food comes from. It also runs workshops for parents to teach them about diet and nutrition. Elmscot was the first nursery to receive Trafford Council’s ‘Healthy Setting Award’.
Little Green Rascals Organic Day Nursery
Meadows Children's Nursery
Achieving Early is an intervention programme developed by charity Achievement for All, designed to improve the life chances of two- to five-year-olds vulnerable to underachievement. A specialist coach works with the setting leader to develop inclusive practice. There is a particular focus on developing leadership skills, ensuring that the progress of each child is tracked and responded to, and encouraging strong parental engagement. To date, the charity has worked with over 120 settings to support more than 1,000 children. Ofsted grades have risen and Year One data shows that the programme closed the gap ‘for a significant number of children across all three prime areas’.
Highly commended: Allens Croft Childrens Centre
Described by the judges as a ‘very powerful initiative, which addresses a crucial local need’, Sparklers Parent Mentoring Programme supports mothers and fathers to empower each other. Co-constructed with professionals, parents and children from one of the most deprived wards in Birmingham, the aim of the project is to target hard-to-reach parents from minority communities and encourage them to access early years services. Parents of children from birth to 11 are trained as mentors, ‘Sparklers’, to provide support to new, isolated or unconfident mothers and fathers to boost their confidence, make new friends and be great parents. The programme supports the emotional well-being of both mentors and mentees.
Springboard Saturdads, Springboard Opportunity Group
Action for Children’s Mother and Baby Unit at HMP/YOI Styal is a winner for the second year in a row. It provides a unique, supportive environment in which mothers are encouraged, empowered and inspired to bond with their babies and transform their life chances through parenting support, targeted intervention and high-quality nursery provision for up to 10 children who may reside there from birth to two years old. Every month, family days are held to provide quality contact between mothers, their babies, fathers, siblings and other family members. The unit also has a Mothers Home where visiting children can see their mothers in a more relaxed and safe environment.
Springboard Saturdads, Springboard Opportunity Group
Established in January 2014, Kidspiration provides sessional care to children age two to three, including those eligible for the two-year-old offer. Rated outstanding by Ofsted, it is based at a primary school in Leeds and has a waiting list in place for the next two years. Practitioners at Kidspiration are highly qualified, skilled and knowledgeable, and the nursery prides itself on helping children make good progress. Kidspiration also works closely with the local children’s centre, sharing information and ensuring children are kept safe, something the setting has been praised for by Social Care. Kidspiration’s owner Rebecca Elliott is now sharing her experience and expertise with others in the sector.
iConnect and ParentZone aim to streamline the administration process for nurseries and promote partnership with parents. Using the app, parents can book extra childcare sessions, check bills or settle invoices from their phone, tablet or computer, reducing the amount of time nursery staff spend chasing outstanding payments. They can also use it to learn about their child’s day. ParentZone features a Facebook style interactive timeline where they can view learning journeys, photos and videos of their children. The app is linked to an online digital printing service, allowing parents to create photo books, mugs or calendars. Currently over 15,000 parents are using the ParentZone app.
Community Plaything’s Play Collection helps practitioners to support each child’s unique interests and encourages imaginative play. The home corner can be turned into a kitchen, shop, hairdressers or cosy area for sleep. Children can use the curtained arch as a puppet theatre, window or arched entry and the counter as a desk, bench or bed.
One nursery head said the Play Collection has changed the way children engage with each other while in the home corner. She explains, ‘Children are more able to initiate and direct their own play, with many of the boys taking the lead – something which we hadn’t seen prior to having the equipment.’
TickiT Silver Sensory Reflective Balls
TickiT Sensory Flashing Glitter Balls
This four-part book series, which includes ‘The Feeling Child’, ‘The Growing Child’, ‘The Thinking Child’ and ‘The Social Child’, links theory to everyday practice. Each book takes a detailed look at a major strand of child development – cognitive, social, physical and emotional. Expert authors include Maria Robinson, Clair Stevens, Pamela May and Toni Buchan. One judge said, ‘This series really stands out as a winner. They are good study books and the scenarios are really easy to relate to.’
Highly commended: Bloomsbury Publishing, 100 Ideas for Early Years Practitioners
Emma Scott, trainee practitioner at Pear Tree Nursery in East Lothian, joined the nursery from school in June 2014. She is highly appreciated by parents, her supervisor, her college tutor and most importantly the babies she cares for in the setting’s baby room. The babies love Emma and she has fostered excellent relationships with them. She has taken on the lead role in developing treasure baskets for the babies to explore, finding resources in her own time and researching their benefits. Emma is already showing many leadership qualities, despite it being very early in her career, and all agree that Emma will go far.
Highly commended: Kayleigh Willows, Kiddi Caru Day Nurseries
Jenna ‘is way more than a nursery practitioner’ say her employers, and was a key contributor to the nursery’s recent outstanding grade. Her manager says, ‘I couldn’t have wished for a more skillful, knowledgeable, supportive and absolutely dedicated deputy’. Jenna is currently studying for a Foundation degree in early years. She has implemented the Mosaic approach to support children in having a voice. She has also recently taken on the role of SENDCO for the group and supports a child on a one-to-one basis who is registered blind. The boy’s parents say, ‘were it not for Jenna’s unrelenting drive to support our boy, it’s fair to say we would never have had him in a nursery setting.’
Highly commended: Margaret Kelly, Childbase Partnership
Anne Horn has worked for Southend Adult Community College as team leader for early years for the past ten years, and has now taken on college-wide responsibilities for providing outstanding teaching, learning and assessment. Anne has also been a tutor, mentor and assessor for childcare professionals over the East of England, supporting them in gaining EYP Status and EYT Status. Anne has worked tirelessly with the team to support tutors to become outstanding. At the college’s 2014 inspection, the early years provision was found to be ‘outstanding’. One colleague says, ‘Anne is passionate about delivering innovative, inspirational and vibrant training.’
Highly commended: Sarah Olley, Montessori Centre International
Sharon helps every child to have a good start by careful and thoughtful interaction, raising their confidence levels and building on their self-esteem. She also stresses the importance of being able to have fun, for the children and herself. Providing support to families, her peers and charities, is important to Sharon, who is guiding two other local childminders. When one parent was left without a car after hers broke down, Sharon loaned the mum her vehicle for two months. One parent says, ‘We feel privileged that Sharon is looking after our son. Having peace of mind that your child is happy away from his own home is priceless.’
Charlotte Eavis Wix is Regional Operations Manager for a group of seven of Toad Hall’s nurseries, but also supports all 15 as a key member of the senior management team. Charlotte has overseen the development of two new nurseries and helped with the management of two very significant nursery extensions. She has led on the introduction of new nursery management software and on work for the group’s Soil Association silver accreditation. She has improved under-twos provision by creating training programme ‘Stork to Walk’, which focuses on attachment theory and the role of the key person, and improved occupancy levels throughout her area.
Highly commended: Kate Reed, First Steps Children's Nursery
Jess joined Woodlands in 2008 as a 17-year-old student on work experience, and was quickly recognised as someone who would go far. She joined on a permanent basis last year, having just qualified as an Early Years Teacher, and has been promoted to deputy manager. Woodlands says that Jess has been unstoppable, coming up with wonderful ideas to build on practice from the start. Jess has introduced strategies for promoting positive behaviour, created Home Learning Bags and engaged parents in the day-to-day life of the nursery. She carries out regular room observations and peer observations, supporting the team with reflecting on their practice.
Highly commended: Joy Homersham, Elmscot Day Nursery
James is the centre manager at Kids Allowed Stockport, and has worked for almost ten years at the group. He was the ideal candidate to take on the group’s newest setting in 2013. He is known for spending very little time in the office, and parents love the fact James is ‘a visual presence’ in the setting, at the front door every morning. The extent to which James has built a happy motivated team of colleagues is reflected in the nursery’s retention rates, with the lowest levels of staff turnover in the group. The nursery gained an outstanding grade from Ofsted in its first inspection, with James praised for his ‘innovative and inspirational leadership’.
Jane Bulmer, Franche community primary school
Steph Rogerson, Sparklers Private Nursery
Over the last 20 years, Carolynn has dedicated her whole self to the well-being and enhancement of the children in her care, staff, the local community and childcare sector, consistently and constantly working to improve outcomes,’ says her colleague.
A facilitator by nature, Carolynn makes things possible. She strives for excellence on a daily basis and takes on numerous and varied challenges. Praised as a ‘visionary and inspirational leader’, she ensures the setting keeps abreast of any new initiatives and challenges practitioners to move beyond their comfort zone. After being named as Nursery World’s manager of the year 2014, Carolynn used her ‘new found fame’ to share her views with the childcare minister Sam Gyimah.
Franche Community Primary School’s close-knit and passionate early years team work together to overcome significant challenges at all levels of care and learning. A third of children arrive at the unit with an identified special educational need. The vast majority have behavourial, communication, emotional, social or medical challenges. However, staff meet each of these head on, creating, according to the school’s latest Ofsted report, ‘an exceptionally nurturing environment where every child is valued and their interests and learning styles are supported.’ As a result, children make outstanding levels of progress through nursery and Reception. The school provides a treehouse classroom, tyre trail and new outdoor classroom with growing beds and a mud kitchen. There is also a forest school area, which features a firepit and natural resources for building shelters.
Magdalen Gates Preschool is located in one of the most deprived areas of Norwich, giving children and their families the help, encouragement and stability they need with their day-to-day lives. The setting runs a wide range of events and programmes to engage parents with their children’s learning and development, including weekly stay and play sessions. A new venture this year has been ‘Talking Together’ for younger siblings and parents, with baby and toddler sessions including music, treasure baskets and storytelling. The garden is Magdalen Gates’ ‘third classroom’, and children have free flow access. They help to grow fruit and vegetables and plant bulbs and flowers, play in the mud kitchen and look for minibeasts in the bug hotel.
Highly commended: Little Franche, Franche community primary school
The family-owned and run nursery group started by Debbi and Andy Gould in 1992 provides 350 places across four nurseries in the West Midlands. Three are graded outstanding. The nurseries work ‘hand in hand’ with parents, setting up a parent representatives group with an email hotline to managers. The group has also co-ordinated the first exchange trips with pre-school children from its twinning with a school in Italy. Five staff are currently taking early years degrees, and others are taking management qualifications. All staff have their own individual training programmes. First Steps has started to contribute to to free mentoring for new and struggling nurseries.
Mulberry Bush Nursery Group
Based on a working farm, Little Barn Owls Nursery and Farm School is dedicated to the well-being and rounded development of children and creating an environment that helps the whole family to thrive. Its enquiry-based approach is inspired by the pedagogy of Reggio Emilia pre-schools and outdoor practice in Scandinavia, as well as the UK's tradition of play-based learning. There is a particular emphasis on the Characteristics of Effective Learning and how children build knowledge within a stimulating environment that includes a garden, allotment, 'farm school' and art studios and features a rich variety of well-presented provocations and open-ended resources. Judge and early years consultant Wendy Scott says, 'Little Barn Owls are deserving winners because of their insightful and principled way of working, and their deep appreciation of each child.’