Katherine is an inspiration to anyone considering childminding as a career, say our judges. In two years, she went from having no experience in childcare or education to being graded Outstanding in her first Ofsted inspection. Kayte’s House offers free flow play indoors and outdoors, taking inspiration from the Communication Friendly Spaces approach, helping children to become confident, capable and resilient. Katherine is also working hard to change public perception of the role of childminders through social media and a website.
Debbie Watling offers a service which is unique in her area as a 50:50 childminder, splitting her time between childminding at home and running the family learning and inclusion creches with her assistants at the local child and family centre. This means that the centre can offer creche provision for children, many with English as an additional language, while parents attend parenting courses. Judges say Debbie is an inspiring model for what childminders can achieve beyond their own setting, with an impressive commitment to caring for vulnerable families.
Outstanding-rated GNG Nursery is based in one of the most deprived areas of the West Midlands. Its ethos is to address the cause of social issues rather than the symptoms, with a strategy of Health, Employment, Learning and Poverty reduction. Services include health and fitness classes, homework club, employment support, English classes and welfare advice. This ‘hub for change’ tackles the attainment gap by providing high-quality care and education for young children, and support for families to improve their own lives.
Staff at St Paul’s have put every last drop of energy and effort into making their Reception class a true early years experience within a school setting since it opened in 2016. The loving, caring ethos means that staff are responsive to children’s needs, feelings and interests. The free flow environment offers sewing, fire-making, cooking, woodwork and bike-riding, with children leading their own learning. On Walkabout Wednesday they visit the local area. Parents are involved with every stage of their child’s journey.
The team at Holmsdale believe in the saying ‘what one loves in childhood stays in the heart forever’, and so to introduce children to nature they have developed Forest School provision that is well-researched, promotes child-led learning and respects the natural environment. Its woodland area has barefoot trails, fire pits and seating circles, sound walls and climbing and swinging equipment. Tree climbing, mud pies, hide and seek and digging are among the favourite activities. Parents love the annual party in the woods, too.
Making loose parts the staple of its provision has transformed practice at Sunbeams and resulted in a huge difference in children’s learning, with boys showing greater creativity and girls developing more confidence among the many changes. Providing open-ended materials has enabled the nursery to build on the Reggio Emilia approach and ‘in the moment planning’ to introduce more choice and risk-taking into children’s play. Children are now endlessly interested and engaged in their play and staff stress has reduced.
George Perkins Day Nursery developed ‘Building Healthy Families’ following the success of its ‘Building Healthy Lives’ campaign in fostering healthier eating and less challenging behaviour in its children. The new programme involves parents, aiming for children to have consistency and to be surrounded by good role models. The strands of ‘Building Healthy Families’ are being active, healthy attitudes to food, and emotional health and well-being. Parents love events such as the weekly Family Physical Challenge, and staff are getting active too.
Randolph Beresford Nursery School and Children’s Centre caters for 120 children in an area of high social and economic deprivation. More than half speak English as an additional language, and benefit from short intervention groups and a therapeutic music group. With much higher levels than average of special educational needs, the nursery has a team of highly-trained learning support staff. Parents are empowered to navigate systems successfully to gain the right level of support for their child, and practice is shared with other settings.
Michelle has been with the family she works for since 2013 and they say they can’t imagine how they would function without her. Michelle has amazing patience, lots of initiative and a real love of children, and is also a great cook and organizer. She has progressed her qualifications from Level 3 to an early years degree, and the judges say she is a caring, creative, hardworking, loving, professional nanny who has set the bar high for future entrants.
Charlotte joined Cherubs in April 2018 and is working towards her Level 2 qualification. She had previously studied for a foundation degree in sports coaching and uses her experience to run weekly fun football sessions. Charlotte supports four key children; attends a wide range of training courses, always wanting to implement the ideas she has gained; and is heavily involved in fundraising for the Cherubs community. Recently, she created new starter bags for children and families.
An inspirational chef and a diligent food culture were just two of the factors that helped Townhouse Nursery to wow our judges. At Townhouse, food is not only fresh and healthy, but fun as well, with lively mealtimes making eating enjoyable. Menus embrace a wide variety of cultures and cuisines to introduce a range of different foods. Sustainability and reducing food waste is a priority, with fresh meat, fruit and vegetables sourced from the local farm shop where possible. Food support to families and the community is also exceptional.
Manchester-based Kids Allowed wins this award for the second time in three years, having grown to eight settings, with more than 1,700 childcare places and 450 staff. Last year, it bought out its investors and returned to being family-owned, choosing to focus growth on the North-West. This year, it started a popular scheme to recruit elder volunteers and a summer work experience initiative for students. It is committed to removing single-use plastics by 2020. The group is also doubling the number of children with SEND it supports.
Ginny manages a team of 28, who say she is ‘one in a million’, leading by example and getting involved in everything from presenting to the Deputy Mayor of London to the washing up. She is an incredible role model, who strives to create a haven of kindness where every child is cherished. One parent says she is akin to the pied piper as children follow her around. Under Ginny’s leadership, the nursery has achieved the bronze and silver Healthy Early Years London awards.
Spring Bensham is based with Bensham Community Nursery School and delivers excellent integrated provision. The nursery team has worked tirelessly to implement changes, improve qualifications, build team cohesion and widen their experiences. Children have a rich and varied learning environment with free flow access to the outdoor area and equal access to all areas of the curriculum. Spring Bensham’s strengths include supporting children with SEND and its key person approach which values the cultural background of each child highly.
As operations director for Sunflower, Dawn demonstrates exceptional vision and leadership, ensuring that her team live and breathe the culture and core values of the group. She is a mentor and critical friend to the nursery managers, and has created bespoke training packages for her team. Dawn also holds quirky staff meetings, organizes social events for staff and families, and offers affordable training to local childminders. She even arrived at nursery with a boat on the roof of her car, which she single-handedly restored for the nursery garden.
‘If something needs doing, Tessa has probably already done it!’ says the senior practitioner’s colleagues. Tessa leads children in this fully outdoor setting on adventures through the woods and is an expert on child-directed play. She always makes parents feel that they are heard and supported too. Tessa led from the front on her nursery’s recent site move, supporting staff and reassuring parents, then building an educationally rich and challenging environment for the second time in a year.
Each Peach’s nursery and forest school both feature on its website, with the virtual tour of the nursery a big hit with new parents. Parents say the website is easy to navigate, colourful and well-designed, and they appreciate the very effective use of social media to signpost events and keep them in the loop. Each Peach says all staff get involved in social media, and it is also a brilliant way for children to share nursery experiences at home with their parents.
Elaine joined Holmsdale in 1987 and has become a cornerstone of the team, heading the toddler room and also as deputy manager. She is deeply involved in everyday life in the toddler room, from nappy changing to story time and music time, and leads Forest School sessions and trips into the community. Elaine has been a strong influence on many children and families, increasingly caring for more than one generation, and offers personalized support when required. She has been a huge asset for the past 32 years.
Nature to Nurture scoops this award for the third year, having expanded its research with Liverpool Hope University on enhancing children’s free play in a natural environment. Its children have a fully immersive experience in nature all year round, exceeding guidelines for physical activity and developing vital life skills. N2N is creating a model that it wants to be adopted by outdoor nurseries across the country and is taking it to China too. Plans are in place to open further Nature to Nurture settings across Merseyside.
Northumberland Early Years Professionals Network is a forum of early years practitioners who act as champions of change, with the aim of improving provision, attainment and outcomes for young children and families. Its members are childminders, nursery nurses, managers and teachers who co-operate through group meetings and social media. Its biggest impact so far has been on health and well-being of staff and children, and it is currently encouraging more men to join the sector.
Since joining Kids Planet in 2018, Gill has set up a training academy to ensure all staff at the group’s 40-plus nurseries have access to high quality learning opportunities, recruiting tutors and assessors and bringing in robust policies and procedures. Using the apprenticeship levy, she has established the group as an employer-provider of apprenticeships across the early years and childcare sector. As well as nearly 80 staff taking apprenticeships, accredited CPD courses now include baby massage, baby yoga and mindfulness.
East Sussex County Council’s Interacting with Babies collaborative research project involved 36 settings using research to improve practice, practitioner knowledge and outcomes for children. Nurseries set themselves questions on topics including singing, peer-to-peer interactions and non-verbal communication. Significant improvements in practice built on firm evidence were the result, with baby room practitioners given a voice, a strong ethos of research and reflective practice, and increased mutual respect and links with those working with other age groups.
Young Mums Will Achieve is a partnership between Fit 'N' Fun Kids childcare, Cornwall College and Cornwall Council aiming to improve outcomes for teenage parents and their children. Young mothers with complex needs and many barriers to learning are supported back into mainstream education, employment and training, and helped to develop positive parenting and life skills. Many parents join the project at very early stages of pregnancy and form strong bonds with their children’s practitioners. Nearly 500 teenage mums have benefited since 2009.
Helen began her teaching career in 1978 after gaining a law degree and realising working in an office was not for her. She went on to become a primary, nursery and home school liaison teacher and a local authority senior advisory teacher on early literacy. She joined Manchester Metropolitan University in 1988 as Senior Lecturer in primary and early years education. She was on the National Steering Group and a National Trainer for Birth to Three Matters. In 2004, she joined the National Strategies where she was the Strategic Director. She influenced government policies and was involved in developing the Early Years Foundation Stage as well as framing the principles and structure of the EYFS. She was the National Lead for the Every Child a Talker programme and an expert adviser for the Tickell review team. Helen is an independent early years consultant, trainer and writer which has provided her with the opportunity to speak at conferences and engage with policy issues. Helen also serves as a Vice-President of Early Education and tutors on the MA and PGCE courses at the Centre for Research in Early Childhood in Birmingham and is a Visiting Fellow of Oxford Brookes University.