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The Food Teacher launches new award

The Food Teacher, headed by Katherine Tate has launched a new award for nurseries and schools for ages 3+ to support food education and improve long-term health.

It is crucial to introduce children to the value of eating healthy and understanding the link between what we eat and our overall health. This has become especially important during the crisis but sharing good practice and keeping on top of education will help.

The Food Teacher team have been working with schools since 2014 and launched their first Young Chef award for 9 to 11 year olds in 2017. Feedback from many schools highlighted the need for food and nutrition education to begin as early as possible to ensure that children develop chef skills, hygiene awareness, a basic understanding of nutrition and practical experience.

Therefore, The Food Teacher decided to launch a Younger Chef award last year for ages 6 to 7 and this year sees the launch of their Youngest Chef award for ages 3+.

The award is a ‘Mini Muncher Challenge’ themed around the story of ‘The Very Hungry Caterpillar’ by Eric Carle. Children learn basic, age appropriate chef skills, food hygiene and safety, nutrition, the benefits of choosing healthy snacks and staying hydrated. Make at home recipes are also included to engage parents/carers. During each session, the children create a different snack e.g. a celery caterpillar or watermelon pizza slice. No heat is required throughout the challenge and only minimal equipment so it’s easy for nurseries and/or schools to deliver.

Once signed up they receive access to the website, which contains everything required for delivery including lessons plans printable resources and teaching videos. They also receive copies of The Food Teacher’s two award-winning books, printed posters for the classroom and stickers and medals for the children.

Local celebrity chef, radio presenter and best-selling author Patti Sloley presents the teaching videos, which are engaging and fun. Speaking about this matter, Patti stated:

‘Introducing young children to nutritious food is a great way to get them started on a healthy life. Working with youngsters is totally inspiring and I hope this award will excite them to get making food.’

Fingertips Preschool, Forest school and Woodland Nursery in Harpenden have been involved in the development of the award and are looking ahead with enthusiasm to teaching the material

Early Years Head Teacher Jenny Herbaut added:

‘I’m very excited about the up and coming award it’ll be enthralling seeing children engaged in nutrition and how they can eat healthily. In the long-term this will positively impact their development.’

The award is being launched on Wednesday 1st July via a local business collaboration and take over of The Food Teacher’s social media channels by pennybird and camera who will showcase the passion and impact of The Food Teacher.

Katharine Tate says:

‘Teaching children the importance of food for their health is essential and this award starts that process off at a very young age. The long-term impact of food and nutrition education on life long health should never be underestimated.’

Anyone who wants to find out more can follow The Food Teacher on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram on Wednesday 1st or visit:



New campaign presses for Summer holiday food provision to be permanent

Last month, the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson made a very hasty U-turn over free school meals after a passionate campaign that was led by footballer, Marcus Rashford.

The Prime Minister then announced that a brand new Covid Summer Food Fund will be launched to pay for lunches for all 1.3 million children on free meals in term for the whole of the summer holidays.

The Children First Alliance welcomed the news but want to see this go much further. The Alliance is now calling for a permanent arrangement so that no child goes hungry when schools are closed. Using the hashtag #schoolmeals365, a letter writing campaign is underway.

The team at Children First Alliance are working with the UK Youth Parliament and are now encouraging young people to contact Tory Robert Halfon MP, Chair of the Education Select Committee, who is actively engaging with this issue and would possibly support a permanent solution.

Speaking to NMT, Baroness Frances D’Souza, president of the Children First Alliance said:

‘It’s wonderful that government have seen sense and extended the school meals voucher system over the summer but we know that many families will be on a reduced income for some time to come. The government should recognise this and confirm free school meal provision will be extended to cover all holidays at least until the economic impact of Covid-19 is over’

Outline for sending a letter:

  1. Write by hand a letter to Robert Halfon MP. It can be small, with pictures, a full page or more, it can be personal – showing a story about how having free school meals has helped you, a friend, your family. It can be signed by multiple people.
  2. You can write multiple letters. Send one to your own MP. Send to all or just a few members of the education select committee and Robert Halfon. Send one to the PM or any other significant person in parliament/the government.
  3. Use the hashtag #schoolmeals365
  4. Robert Halfon MP’s postal address for the letter is – House of Commons, London SW1A 0AA.
  5. The Members of the Education Select Committee have the same address. Each member can be found at
  6. Your MP’s address can be found at
  7. Remember to post up online with hashtag #schoolmeals365 and you can add our Children First Alliance @Ch1stAlliance. Place up on all social media platforms. You might want to add significant other people such as Robert Halfon MP – @halfon4harlowMP or celebrity’s such as Marcus Rashford – @MarcusRashford in your online posts.
  8. Put your letter in an envelope, or put lots of peoples’ letters into one envelope to save postage and then place a stamp on, or take to post office and post!
  9. Get as many friends and adults to do the same.

PM announces school rebuilding programme

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced sets a ten-year rebuilding programme for schools across England.

The rebuilding programme will start in 2020-21 with the first 50 projects, supported by over £1 billion in funding. Further details of the new, multi-wave ten-year construction programme will be set out at the next Spending Review.

Investment will be targeted at school buildings in the worst condition across England – including substantial investment in the North and the Midlands.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said:

‘As we bounce back from the pandemic, it’s important we lay the foundations for a country where everyone has the opportunity to succeed, with our younger generations front and centre of this mission.

‘This major new investment will make sure our schools and colleges are fit for the future, with better facilities and brand new buildings so that every child gets a world-class education.’

However, there was no sign of financial support listed for the early years, another indication of a hard-working sector being left behind, despite many settings staying open to support key workers and vulnerable children.

Purnima Tanuku OBE, chief executive of National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA) said: ‘Yet again, the early years sector has been disregarded in the £1bn investment in education announced by the Prime Minister today. This announcement does not include even a penny towards a child’s most important, formative years.

‘NDNA has been campaigning hard for urgent support through a recovery and transformation fund to get childcare providers through these tough times and remain sustainable into the future.

‘We would ask the Government to urgently rethink its strategy to make sure they invest early on in a child’s life, which sets them off on the right path and also saves money on their later education.

‘Many nurseries are on the brink of closure, having remained open to a small number of critical workers’ children over the past few months and losing money week by week. Those that have closed are now struggling to reopen due to lack of financial support and reduced income from parental fees. This support is needed urgently now before nurseries have to make that tough decision to close permanently.’



Early years providers warn of mass closures

The early years sector is warning of ‘chaos’ and ‘mass closures’ as new data reveals the huge scale of financial losses facing it.

According to data analysts Ceeda, as of 8 June, England’s early years providers have been operating on average at 37% of their capacity since early June when they were able to re-open. This is compared to 77% in the spring of 2019 The Early Years Alliance stated that continuing at this rate will cause significant financial losses and many parents could struggle to access childcare places.

Both are calling on urgent Government intervention to minimise the damage.

If the take-up of childcare places continued at this level on average over the next 12 months, providers would face average losses of:

  • £3.63 per funded two-year-old child per hour (a funding shortfall of 68%), and
  • £2.53 per funded three- and four-year-old child per hour (a funding shortfall of 55%).

The modelling also shows that even if more parents start taking up childcare places, providers will still face significant losses. According to Ceeda, over the next 12 months:

  • an average occupancy level of 45% would mean that a childcare provider would face average hourly losses of:
    • £3.06 per funded two-year-old (a shortfall of 57%)
    • £1.96 per funded three- and four-year-old (a shortfall of 43%)
  • an average occupancy level of 55% would mean that a childcare provider would face average hourly losses of:
    • £2.59 per funded two-year-old (a shortfall of 48%)
    • £1.48 per funded three- and four-year-old (a shortfall of 32%).
  • an average occupancy level of 65% would mean that a childcare provider would face average hourly losses of:
    • £2.26 per funded two-year-old (a shortfall of 42%)
    • £1.15 per funded three- and four-year-old (a shortfall of 25%)

In a new report, The Forgotten Sector, published today, the Early Years Alliance has highlighted the various areas in which the early years has been overlooked during the pandemic, and called on the government to:

  • extend the financial support with costs such as extra cleaning being provided to schools to early years settings;
  • extend businesses grants currently available to retail, hospital and leisure businesses to childcare providers;
  • and extend the £1 billion ‘Covid-19’ catch-up fund for schools to the early years sector, as was initially announced.

The Forgotten Sector report is available here:


Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Early Years Alliance, said: 

The government says that it has done enough to support childcare providers during the coronavirus crisis, but these figures from Ceeda show that this couldn’t be further from the truth.

‘As we have long warned would be the case, the joint pressures of inadequate government funding and reduced parental demand for places means that many nurseries, pre-schools and childminders are losing money on every childcare place they offer. This is simply not sustainable.

‘Even in areas where parental demand for childcare places remains high, providers are currently restricted on how many children they are able to care for under government guidance, which is going to place even more financial pressure on them over the coming months.

‘The fact is that the early years sector is at a crunch point, and unless urgent action is taken, we are going to see many, many more settings forced to close their doors over the coming months. This could mean chaos for parents – and particularly mothers – trying to access childcare in order to return to work at a time when the government is desperately trying to restart the economy.

‘Ministers must now commit to providing the financial support that childcare providers need to remain sustainable throughout this crisis and beyond. Anything less puts the long-term viability of the sector as a whole at risk.’

Jo Verrill, managing director of Ceeda, said:

‘The coronavirus pandemic has delivered a powerful reminder of the importance of early education and childcare in all its facets, from the base need to keep vulnerable children safe from immediate harm, to giving every child and adult the opportunity to reach their full potential in education and work.

‘There is much rhetoric on the importance of a child’s early years. Now more than ever, this must be matched by investment, if we are to protect the country’s vital early years infrastructure.’





ICP Nurseries signs up to the Race at Work Charter.

Business in the Community (BITC) in partnership with the government is pleased to announce that ICP Nurseries Ltd has signed up to the Race at Work Charter, an initiative designed to improve outcomes for black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) employees in the UK.

Events and protests around the world are highlighting inequality in societies and calling on everyone to show support as allies wherever possible.

The charter builds on the work of the 2017 McGregor-Smith Review, ‘Race in the workplace’, a wake-up call for UK employers, which found that people from BAME backgrounds were still underemployed, underpromoted and under-represented at senior levels.

Currently, over 200 public, private and charitable organisations have signed up to the charter. The Race at Work Charter is designed to foster a public commitment to improving outcomes of BAME employees in the workplace.

The charter consists of five principles to ensure organisations support BAME employees and tackle the barriers they continue to face.

Organisations that sign up to the charter such are committing to:

  • Appointing an Executive Sponsor for race
  • Capturing data and publicising progress
  • Ensuring zero tolerance of harassment and bullying
  • Making equality in the workplace the responsibility of all leaders and managers
  • Taking action that supports ethnic minority career progression.

Tracey Storey, chief executive officer of ICP Nurseries Ltd said :

‘ICP Nurseries is committed to ensuring that the principles of BITC are embedded in our working practices, but we are deeply aware that we can always do more.  ICP Nurseries has signed up to the BITC Race Charter to demonstrate our current and ongoing commitment to be an inclusive and responsible employer. We have further developed our equality and diversity agenda which will include a representative committee of staff from across the group.  This committee will allow nominated equality and diversity leads from some of our nurseries to represent their colleagues from across our organisation. Together, I believe we can genuinely make a difference.’


Little Beehive Nursery Group acquires new setting in Fife

The Little Beehive Nursery Group has completed its acquisition of Little Einsteins nursery in Sang Road, Kirkcaldy with the support of specialist property adviser, Christie & Co.

Little Einsteins nursery was sold at an undisclosed price but it had been closed during the lockdown period.

In preparing for re-opening in Scotland in August, the new owners will look to renovate the site to accommodate 92 children aged up to five years old. The Little Beehive Nursery Group, which already has a pre-school provision in Kirkcaldy, plans to merge its two existing pre-school nurseries and relocate to the newly refurbished Sang Road provision.

Carol Craig, Little Beehive’s director and project lead, commented:

‘I am thrilled to have the Sang Road provision join the Little Beehive Nursery Group. When the opportunity was brought to us by Christie & Co, we knew it was something that was a great fit for our business and, after viewing the property, it seemed like a perfect match for our ethos and brand. There is a lot of work required to get it up to the Little Beehive standard, but I am excited to get the renovation project moving.

‘From the first viewing, we saw the potential the space had, and our goal is to create a modern, clean child-centred provision, allowing free play between areas of the rooms to give the children the freedom of choice and to encourage learning through play. This purchase will be the sixth facility in the Little Beehive Group, providing care for over 500 children in Fife and Angus.’

Martin Daw, senior director for healthcare at Christie & Co, added:

‘I had recently been instructed by my clients Kingdom Homes to consider the confidential sale of their Kirkcaldy based nursery. Having recently met the purchasers, Little Beehive Nursery Group, it was an instant match to their requirements to expand their settings in Fife and after the first viewing they moved quickly to have their offer accepted. Formerly Kingdom Kiddies (now Little Einsteins) was originally set up by Colin Smart who owns a local care home group Kingdom Homes. He opened the nursery so that his family could experience high quality childcare and also run a successful business for the community.

‘I was delighted to handle this sale during a difficult time for the sector. The fact the nursery was closed due to lockdown allowed the purchasers the time to plan and refurbish the property before they reopen. Funding from the Bank of Scotland shows confidence from the financial sector in the childcare market.’


Scottish Government releases new guidance for reopening nurseries

The Scottish Government has released guidance for early learning and childcare providers in the local authority, private and third sectors to support a safe reopening of these settings during Phase 3.

This guidance applies to all providers of registered day care of children’s services, including nurseries, playgroups, family centres and crèches who provide care to children under school age. While the Scottish Government continues to keep schools and most early years settings closed, this guidance allows providers to plan well in advance.

Purnima Tanuku OBE, chief executive of NDNA Scotland said: ‘The fact that this guidance has been produced for early learning and childcare settings well in advance of any re-opening gives providers plenty of time to prepare. The wellbeing of children and staff will be at the heart of plans so that as more children are able to return nurseries and providers will be safe places.

‘Putting these measures in place will naturally mean providers will face extra costs at a time of reduced demand. This means there are real fears across the sector that nurseries won’t be sustainable in the longer term as children start to return. Additional costs will include installing partitions and  more cleaning and changing stations, but will also include PPE costs, hand sanitizer as well as needing more staff to keep consistent smaller bubbles.

‘If childcare settings aren’t sustainable this would be disastrous for families and children as well as the economy. NDNA is calling for the Scottish Government to look at recovery and transformation funding to nurseries so they can continue to do their excellent job of supporting children’s development and learning while allowing parents to return to work.’

On the 15th of May, Susan McGhee, chief executive of Flexible Childcare Services Scotland joined NMT Discussions to explore the Flexible Pathway Toolkit as well as her plans for a safe re-opening when the time was right.

Looking at how FCSS might approach re-opening, Susan listed these key things they will consider:

  • Space requirements and reduced capacities, this may include reducing capacities or where possible increasing available space
  • Additional cleaning and sanitisation plans
  • Extra handwash stations, including at entry points
  • Increased access to outdoors
  • Maintaining home working for our office-based colleagues
  • Staggering start times for children and staff
  • Reducing the numbers of people entering our buildings by meeting children and parents at the entrance
  • PPE for our team members where appropriate.


The changes to the lending landscape during Covid-19

Covid-19 has sent shockwaves across the globe. It continues to cause widespread economic hardship and concern for businesses and communities.

During these past couple of months both bank and non-bank lenders have faced unique challenges in responding to the virus. For the early years sector, it is a situation that they have never encountered before which can be nerve-wracking, especially for those who have expansion plans for 2020.

To get a better insight into the lending environment, NMT spoke to Stuart Blair, debt finance director and Stephanie Kendall, associate director, growth & communications at OakNorth Bank.

Despite the ongoing challenges, the bank has remained confident that there is appetite for growth and will continue to support clients as they weather this storm.

Asking about how the lending landscape has changed for OakNorth, Stuart stated:

‘Over the last few months the focus has primarily been on supporting existing clients through the crisis. It is something that none of them have ever faced before. Working with them in partnership during the closure period has been a priority.

‘While businesses have closed there has obviously been less revenue but still payments to made and some of those payments can’t be deferred. Therefore, it’s really been about us working out how we can help our clients get back to a new normal.

‘There’s been a lot of proactive work with the existing portfolio and our ability to access and analysis the loans quickly has allowed us to support our clients but even during this period we have been keen to support new clients as well. We are all about finding good management teams and the nursery sector remains one of our key focuses and we are delighted to speak to new businesses.’

OakNorth Bank uses data to very quickly benchmark operators across the country and that helps the team with their decision making. True to the data it collects, the bank is also very relationship focused, aiming to help any business that has a secure plan and a strong management team.

Speaking about the next 12 months, Stuart added:

‘The sector still remains very attractive and I think there is going to be a lot more consolidation in the space. Also, there will be more opportunities for smaller operators with one or two settings. This could be a good time to look at expanding for a third or fourth setting. I think once the confidence returns there will be a lot more interest and growth.

‘Through talking with our client operators, we are seeing a good start back to trading and although there is still a long way to go that’s what we have witnessed in the first two weeks of re-opening. In terms of the debt side its still very much an attractive sector that we at OakNorth are interested in.’

Recently, Essex-based nursery, Little Explorers Day Nursery secured funding from OakNorth Bank to support its acquisition of a property in Epping Forest.

Despite the current climate, the acquisition is part of a wider long term growth strategy for Little Explorers Day Nursery, which plans to open five more nurseries in locations on the outskirts of London.

Commenting on the funding, Stephanie Kendall said:

‘Little Explorers have been an existing client and with everything that happened with Covid-19 they were looking to get some funding to expand and grow. That’s one of the reasons we were keen to work with them is that they are an existing client and they had a strong management team. It really all fell into place and we were excited to get it through for them.

‘Nurseries are an incredibly important sector to us and we think its going to be very resilient over the next couple of years and our support for Little Explorers shows that there is still appetite to grow.’

Looking ahead, there is still a lot of uncertainty but banks like OakNorth understand that this is a time to support the early years sector as much as possible.




New book helps children understand the importance of handwashing

As well as following social distancing rules, Covid-19 guidance insists that people continue to uphold high hygiene standards.

Of course, with children that can be hard to monitor. Getting children to understand the importance of handwashing is crucial, but at times challenging.

To support parents, teachers and healthcare workers educate young children about handwashing in relation to viruses like Covid-19, expert researchers at De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) have partnered with Medina Publishing to produce  a new e-book explaining how germs spread.

Titled ‘Bye-Bye Germs: Be a Handwashing Superhero’ and illustrated by Jules Marinner, the book is the latest release in the ‘Germ’s Journey’ series by microbiologist Dr Katie Laird and education specialist Professor Sarah Younie which raises awareness and communicates the importance of handwashing at a young age.

Dr Laird, who is also head of DMU’s Infectious Disease Research Group stated:

‘Because they cannot see germs, children often don’t understand the need to wash their hands. Since the outbreak of COVID-19, we have all been told how important it is to wash our hands properly and regularly to prevent the virus spreading, but explaining to children the reasons why is equally as important.

‘We have developed Bye-Bye Germs to teach young children about hand hygiene and help them identify where viruses can be contracted and ways to prevent the spread.’

The new e-book, which is being made freely available for a limited launch period for parents and schools in Leicester, tells the story of siblings Jess and Joe who are on a mission to stop germs spreading after a tickle in Jess’ throat turns into a giant cough and sneeze.

It also includes top tips for how families can prevent the spread at home, a picture guide on how to wash hands properly and a ‘spot the germs’ illustration, to help youngsters identify where viruses can be picked up.

Professor Younie, professor in Education, Innovation and Technology, added:

Bye-Bye Germs is a relevant, up-to-date resource specifically produced to help educate early years children about how germs spread and why we need to wash our hands to prevent viruses like of coronavirus.

‘We have combined our multidisciplinary knowledge to produce an educational resource that helps children to easily digest the science behind the story.’

A print edition of Bye-Bye Germs will be available shortly, ready for the new school term. DMU and Medina Publishing are also planning to translate the book into other languages to reach youngsters, parents and teachers around the world.

To order a free copy of the new Bye-Bye Germs story, email Medina Publishing at:


Stand tall for Empathy Day

To mark Empathy Day on 9 June, London Early Years Foundation (LEYF) is launching its Standing Tall for Early Years campaign ­– with a call for all Early Years settings across the UK to join together in planting sunflower seeds with children.

Empathy Day was founded in 2017 and it aims to drive a new movement inspired by research that encourages people to show more empathy.

Now that nurseries across England have re-opened, LEYF wants to celebrate the sector’s bravery and commitment. The early years organisation wants to bring the sector together by planting sunflowers with children.

As the sunflowers grow and bloom, LEYF is asking nursery staff all across the UK to post photos of their sunflowers and to measure how tall they grow.

A prize will be awarded for the tallest towering sunflower by LEYF’s green-fingered garden expert and co-author of 50 Fantastic Ideas for Nursery Gardens, Clodagh Halse.

June O’Sullivan, CEO of London Early Years Foundation said:

‘Both the sector and the children have been through so much uncertainly, upheaval and change over the past few months, we at LEYF believe NOW is the time to understand each other’s emotions, be kind to each other and look to the future with hope and positivity. What better way to do this than planting radiant sunflowers and standing tall together.

‘Early Years has been badly underfunded for a decade, and in the last financial year the childcare sector faced a £600m funding shortfall – not to mention a lack of status and recognition from the Government. Let’s all unite and shine much-needed light on the great work we all do.’

Clodagh Halse, co-author of 50 Fantastic Ideas for Nursery Gardens added: ‘

Taking ownership of individual plants will increase the children’s involvement and awareness of the growing process. Caring for the plants and comparing measurements will help them learn through change – something which we’ve all had to embrace over the past few months.’

Sunflower hints and tips from LEYF

  • Sunflowers can be sown straight in to the ground where they are going to flower, so make sure you use a trowel to remove any weeds from around the area before planting
  • Find a suitable spot where they will get 6-8 hours sun per day – this is what they need to grow successfully.
  • Rake the soil to a fine tilth (a fine crumbly texture) and make some drills 12mm deep. Leave a 10cm space between each seed if you are sowing more than one.
  • Place the seed(s) in carefully and cover up with soil. Don’t forget to water the seeds gently.
  • Be careful, as slugs and snails like to eat new shoots. You may want to protect the seedlings by cutting the top off a plastic bottle and placing it over your seedlings.
  • As your sunflower begins to grow taller than you, you will need to help support the stem by placing a cane near the stem and loosely tying it to the plant with string.
  • Watch your sunflower grow and grow and grow…