Category Archives: news

Bertram Nursery Group acquires leading Cheshire nursery

One of Cheshire’s leading children’s nurseries, Smarties, has become part of the Bertram Nursery Group, a national nursery chain with an existing presence in the North West of England and Scotland.

Founded on the outskirts of Chester 32 years ago by qualified teacher Annie Silcock, Smarties has been awarded ‘outstanding’ in all areas by Ofsted in its last four inspections. It was awarded UK Nursery of the Year by the National Day Nursery Association (NDNA) in 2018.

Although Annie is planning to retire, she will continue working as a consultant within the Early Years sector.

Bertram chief executive officer Cary Rankin said:

‘Smarties is a beautiful nursery with wonderful, carefully planned, outdoor facilities that we will continue to grow and develop in line with our shared vision for outdoor learning. We believe learning outside is hugely beneficial for children and we plan to increase the range of outdoor activities offered.

‘Smarties is a gem and we are delighted that Annie has entrusted us with her legacy. We are excited to move forward with the team and build on the excellent partnerships with parents and schools that ensure every child can thrive and develop.”

Annie Silcock said:

‘The last 32 years have been amazing and I wouldn’t have changed them for the world. I realised I needed to find someone to develop Smarties with the love, care and vision I have had.

‘In Bertram Nursery Group, I have found my ideal successors. We share the same ethos and values regarding our approach to our people and childcare. They feel it is important that nurseries in the group retain their individual character and Bertram have an exciting long-term vision for developing one of the best outdoor provisions in the UK.’

Bertram Nursery Group now operates 37 nurseries in North West England and Scotland. The Group is continuing to grow to provide a trusted, caring and nurturing environment for more children in the region and is committed to investing in its nurseries and the training and development of their teams.

Cary Rankin added:

‘Bertram would like to thank their advisors through the process, including Mark Traynor and team from TLT who led legal due diligence, RSM for providing tax due diligence and CBRE who advised on property related matters.’

Smarties provides places for more than 100 children aged from three months to five years and is set in more than two acres of grounds, providing outdoor activities and a beautiful grand tepee tent, it also runs a holiday club for older children.

For more information, see To find out more about Bertram Nursery Group, see


Budget 2021: absence of new measures for eary years

The Chancellor Rishi Sunak has unveiled the Government’s spending plans in today’s Budget announcement.

In the annual statement, the Chancellor focused on giving more support to businesses and people who are struggling financially due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

In his opening remarks, the Chancellor stated that there had been ‘acute damage to the economy’, with more than 700,000 people losing their jobs and the economy shrinking by 10 per cent, which is the largest fall in centuries. He vowed, as he did last year, to ‘do whatever it takes’ to get through the crisis.

Furthermore, growth this year is projected to be lower due to the current lockdown, but in 2022 it hits 7.3 per cent, up from the previous 6.6 per cent forecast.

However, despite continued calls from the early years sector for more support, the Budget did not include any additional measures for the sector.

Purnima Tanuku OBE, chief executive of National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA), said:

‘The news that the Chancellor will not be subjecting nurseries to business rates at the end of this month will be a huge source of relief today. This will help nurseries in the short term who are struggling with low attendance levels and rising operating costs, but the relief really should be made permanent for these businesses. Business rates remain an unfair tax on space which nurseries give children to grow, learn and develop.

‘But with 58% of nurseries* telling us they may not make it to the end of the term, they clearly need urgent support now to plug the gap created by low attendance and higher costs. There were no specific measures for childcare settings to support them with these. Without more financial support we are likely to see more closures and ultimately, we risk there being insufficient childcare places for all children.

‘The Furlough Scheme has been a vital lifeline to childcare providers and also to parents but as demand increases the need for this in nurseries will reduce. We have previously seen a Job Retention Bonus in place to support employers at the end of the furlough scheme. Over 70% of the early years workforce have been furloughed at some point. They are skilled workers who are vital to children’s development and employers should be supported to retain them.

‘As people look at their workforce needs and consider the future, support for apprenticeships and trainee positions will help employers cover some of the costs and extra work involved in taking on these roles and developing future early years professionals and leaders.

‘Support for investment is welcome but many early years providers are focused on survival and sustainability for the coming months. The Chancellor has promised to do whatever it takes to protect businesses and jobs. Early years remains critical to children’s life chances as well as the wider economy for working families. ‘Whatever it takes’ would have included overturning the spring term funding decision which has hit settings’ funding as well as offering targeted financial support to help settings weather this storm.’

Commenting, Neil Leitch, Early Years Alliance Chief Executive, said:

‘Given the vital role early education and childcare providers will play in the UK’s short and long-term economy recovery, it is both disappointing and hugely frustrating that today’s Budget did not include any specific financial support packages for the early years.

‘While the extension of the business rates holiday will provide welcome relief to some providers, this is only one piece of a very complex financial puzzle, and there are many in the sector who will not benefit at all from today’s announcement.

‘With early years attendance levels still well below normal, and ongoing additional costs associated with coronavirus, urgent help is needed to ensure our vital sector can continue delivering quality care and education to the children and families that need it.

‘Limited financial support throughout this crisis, combined with years of sector underfunding, has already led to the unnecessary closure of nurseries, pre-schools and childminders across the country. Without urgent action, this trend will undoubtedly continue.

‘That is why, on top of emergency support during the pandemic, government must undertake a full review of early entitlement funding to ensure that the sector is able to remain sustainable in the long term.

‘Countless reports show that if the Treasury really wants to reduce long-term spending, investment in the early years sector is an investment that is proven to last a lifetime. I cannot understand why this government is so unwilling to accept that.’


Nurseries and childminders face £247m funding cut for spring term, new analysis reveals

The early years and childcare sector in England is set to lose around a quarter of a billion pounds over the spring term due to the withdrawal of vital government funding, new analysis has found.

Analysis of a recent joint survey carried out by the Early Years Alliance and independent sector analysts Ceeda, shows almost two thirds of nurseries and pre-schools (65%) and four in 10 (42%) childminders had fewer children taking up so-called ‘free childcare’ places this January compared to the same time last year.

The government’s recent decision to base funding for funded early years places for two-, three- and four-year-olds on the number of children currently registered at early years settings during the spring term, rather than on pre-pandemic attendance levels means that:

  • Nurseries and pre-schools with lower headcounts will lose an estimated average of £13,390 funding in the spring term;
  • Childminders with lower headcounts will lose an estimated average of £2,485 funding in the spring term.

This means that the sector is currently facing total losses of £247 million over this period.

Withdrawal of vital funding support

During the summer and autumn of 2020, the government continued to fund early entitlement places for two-, three- and four-old based on pre-pandemic attendance levels. However, this support was retracted in January, with funding instead based on the number of children on roll.

The Department for Education’s own latest statistics on early years attendance levels show that the number of children attending nurseries, pre-schools and childminders during the latest national lockdown is just 62% of normal daily levels (compared to November 2020 when it was 85%).

The impact of furlough support

The Government has claimed that early years providers can recover their funding losses through furlough support. However, as wage costs account for around three-quarters of nurseries’ and pre-schools’ overall costs, and the Job Retention Scheme only provides funding for 80% of wage costs, even if a setting was able to claim maximum furlough support, this would still only equate to around 59% of what they had lost for an unoccupied funded place.

The joint Alliance/Ceeda survey also found that only a minority of providers (45% of nurseries and pre-schools and 19% of childminders employing assistants) had any members of staff on furlough at the time of the survey, with many only able to receive limited support from the Job Retention team, for a number of reasons:

  • 40% of nurseries and pre-schools said occupancy was fluctuating rapidly, making it hard to plan ahead for required staffing levels.
  • Almost a third (31%) said they still needed their staff despite falling demand, to manage increased cleaning (77%),  cover high Covid-related staff absence (66%) and manage the higher staff-child ratios required by ‘bubbles’.
  • A quarter (24%) said the additional criteria for furlough claims in early years provision meant it was not possible to claim support for a post only partly paid by funded income.

In addition, the majority of childminders (85%) do not employ staff and are therefore not eligible for furlough support. While most are eligible for the Self-employed Income Support Scheme (SEISS), the decision to calculate this support based on profits rather than income has meant that for childminders, many of whom have made little profit over recent years, the financial support offered by the scheme is limited. Newly-employed childminders, who fall outside of the eligibility criteria, have received no support at all from SEISS.

Dr Jo Verrill, managing director at CEEDA, commented:

“The pandemic has thrown into sharp relief how vital the country’s early education and childcare infrastructure is for children, parents and employers. It seems this point has yet to be fully understood by the Treasury. The retraction of funding support at this crucial time is the latest example in a long, well-evidenced, history of short-sighted under-investment in children’s futures, and parent’s capacity to work.”

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

‘Nurseries, pre-schools and childminders have been on the frontline throughout this pandemic. It beggars belief, therefore, that at a time when early years providers need the most help to ensure that they can remain sustainable, the government has inexplicably chosen to reduce the level of financial support it is willing to offer.

‘With the sector facing spring term funding losses of nearly a quarter of a billion pounds, it is absolutely critical that the government reverts back to basing early years funding on pre-pandemic attendance levels, as it did during the summer and autumn term last year.

‘We urge the Treasury to use this week’s Budget to commit to providing the support that our vital sector needs during this incredibly difficult period, so that settings can continue to deliver quality education and care, both now and in the long term.’

Aberdeen-based apprentice flourishing at nursery whilst studying

Bright Horizons is celebrating its apprentices in Scotland as part of Scottish Apprenticeship Week, taking place from March 1st to 5th this year.

This includes Ashley Stewart who is studying for her Social Services Children and Young People SVQ Level 3, whilst working at 44. St Swithin Early Learning and Childcare in Aberdeen.

‘I am really enjoying doing my apprenticeship at 44 St. Swithin because I have the hands-on experience as well as gaining the knowledge required to be a qualified practitioner,’ said Stewart.

Nursery manager Vicky Bowman also said that Stewart was flourishing every day whilst completing her SSCYP3.

‘Her knowledge is increasing greatly which is providing the foundations to create an overall knowledgeable and experienced qualified practitioner.

‘The recent feedback from families and the staff team is words that Ashley should be extremely proud of. I know as her manager, I am.’

About Bright Horizons Family Solutions

Bright Horizons is trusted to provide children and families with exceptional care, education and family solutions.  With over 300 nurseries and preschools in the UK and a wealth of experience, it is recognised for excellence in childcare and early education.


Female founders launch gender equality network during lockdown

Two busy working mums have built and launched an Equality, Diversity and Inclusion start-up in their spare time while homeschooling their young families during the lockdown.

The Global Equality Collective (GEC) helps organisations break ground in gender equality, diversity and inclusion by combining their own data with a comprehensive framework and leadership training. The GEC has secured six-figure funding, developed an app and created an online community of 15k individuals all committed to equality in the workplace.

‘We started with gender equality – it was what we knew as females – and found that gender is still a main, core characteristic of us all,’ said Cat Wildman, co-founder of the Global Equality Collective. ‘From there, we explored the nine characteristics of The Equality Act (2010) – hence ‘Gender Equality and Inclusion’.’

Nic Ponsford, co-founder of the GEC added: ‘During our intensive research, the feedback from leaders was that they couldn’t tackle diversity and inclusion themselves because they didn’t feel like experts.

‘We turned this idea on its head. The GEC adds a solid layer of leadership training on top of their existing expertise, which enables them to look at the data we give them about their own specific situation and close gaps.’

Features and benefits of the GEC include:

  • An affordable app with 2 simple check-box assessments and a suite of e-learning resources.
  • A framework and leadership training that removes the need for external experts.
  • 3-years of research with 3 leading UK universities.
  • 100+ subject experts and 15K individuals in the GEC Collective.
  • Empowers leaders with the information, data and education they need to break new ground.

For more information on the GEC App, visit

About the Global Equality Collective (GEC):

Cat Wildman and Nic Ponsford met on Twitter in late 2017 with a mutual interest in achieving equality in the workplace. With Cat’s 15 years-experience in platform design and product development and Nic’s 20 years of knowledge of designing teacher and leadership training, they realised the need for a framework that businesses could use to achieve diversity, equality, and inclusion.

In their spare time, whilst working remotely and with three children each to care for, Nic and Cat founded a start-up, secured 6-figure funding, and built an online community of over 15k to launch an online app for Gender Equality and Inclusion.

Forfar Education aquires Bournemouth-based Park School & Nursery and Dean Park Day Nursery

Forfar Education has acquired Park School & Nursery and Dean Park Day Nursery, both located in Bournemouth. The move comes following a decision to retire by the previous owners of 30 years, Murray and Sally Smyth.

Founded in 2016, Forfar Education consists of a small, experienced team who are passionate about the education of children. The group currently owns and operates a family of three high achieving UK independent schools each with their own nurseries: Brackenfield Preparatory School in Harrogate, The Gleddings Preparatory School in Halifax, and Cameron Vale School in Chelsea.

John Forsyth, CEO of Forfar Education, commented:

‘We are very pleased to announce that two new schools will be joining our special Forfar family as from today: Park School and Nursery and Dean Park Day Nursery. Like all our schools, Park brings with it a clear track record of teaching and ISI inspection excellence. It is an over-subscribed nursery to Prep school, and its sister school Dean Park Day Nursery takes children from 6 month upwards.

‘Dean Park Day Nursery has a magical setting being based in the former Hampshire Cricket pavilion with a huge campus that includes an excellent and adventurous Forest School. Both schools are well known for their outstanding academics, excellent leadership and family feel and we very much welcome them and their teams into the Forfar fold.

‘With this change of ownership there will be no change in the day to day management team of both the School and Nurseries. Forfar’s aim is to provide support to the management teams in order to enable them to continue to provide the brilliant education they do.

‘We would like to wish Mr and Mrs Smyth all the very best for the future and thank them for their years of service, investment and direction. They will always be welcome at the schools and we look forward to maintaining a strong relationship with them in the years to come.’

In supporting the school, Forfar will work closely with the senior leadership team Andrew Main, Park CEO, Mel Dowler, headteacher, Christine Pouncett, Bursar and Kelly Yates, Dean Park Day nursery’s manager.

Andrew Main stated:

‘The Park School team and I are really looking forward to working closely with Forfar to build upon the success of Park School. Joining a family of schools will no doubt give us opportunities to share ideas and best practices to further enhance what we are able to offer as a school.’

Forfar’s focus is on ensuring their schools are happy, safe, and nurturing places to learn and work, making sure leaders and teachers have all the tools they need to deliver excellent learning day in, day out. Through a combination of technical support and investment, Forfar helps its schools enhance what they do best whilst preserving each school’s uniqueness.

Founded by John Forsyth, a former Captain in the British Army who has operated schools from London to Ulaanbaatar (and all points in between), Forfar look forward to working with Mr Main, Mrs Dowler, Mrs Pouncett, Mrs Yates and team, supporting them to take Park School and Dean Park Day Nursery to the next exciting stage in their development.


Prime Minister visits Timotay Playscapes

Ahead of the wider opening of schools on the 8th March, Boris Johnson visited St Mary’s Primary School in Tunstall to find out how they were preparing to open to more pupils next week.

During his visit, Boris Johnson also had a tour of the working site where the setting has invested in their outdoor space. The Prime Minister met with the team of experts who are installing the outdoor space and transforming the playground into an inclusive playground and sensory space.

Boris Johnson said ‘Absolutely wonderful for the kids.’

The PM then ventured up into the lookout tower, inspected the up and over tunnel and was wowed by the water play area too, providing his seal of approval of the outdoor space.

St Mary’s Primary School are investing in their outdoor space, which will enable children to play independently, learn in a fantastic outdoor environment and be able to access an inclusive enriched outdoor environment.

More, now than ever outdoor learning is key. The children have spent an extended amount of time indoors and not participating in sports, so when the children return to their educational settings then outdoor learning and exercising is going to be key.

Timotay Playscapes are incredibly proud of their contribution to outdoor learning and believe that every child has the right to play. Through each of its playground and outdoor space transformations, it is making a positive impact.

There is no better place for children to learn, than outdoors, and no better play resource than nature itself. Simply put, play is learning. The NHS also recommends that toddlers and preschool-aged children should have at least 3-4 hours per day of physical activity, so if this exercise can take place outside then this becomes even more of a benefit to a young child.

Here at Timotay Playscapes, we support the use of outdoor learning environments so that children can connect with nature and the wider outdoor and natural environment. We are here to help educational settings along with parks, public spaces and family attractions design, build and transform their outdoor spaces – and get our children more active and engaged in outdoor learning. Click here for your FREE consultation.


Mama Bears announces new MD

Mama Bear’s Day Nursery & Pre-School group has announced the appointment of a new Managing Director marking the beginning of an exciting new chapter for the business.

Chris Marston, who joined the organisation last year as commercial director, took over as MD on March the 1st and will focus on the day-to-day running of the 24-setting group, which cares for over 2000 children in the South West.

With almost a decade’s experience in the education sector Chris has significant commercial and management expertise running multi-site teams.

Chris said:

‘My move to Managing Director signals a new phase for Mama Bear’s and I’m looking forward to taking the business to the next level.

‘Mama Bear’s has an excellent reputation and strong foundations for growth. While I am excited about growing the business, I am conscious that quality childcare at the point of delivery is absolutely the top priority. Each individual setting must be looked at as its own business to ensure it continues to provide the right kind of care in the communities we serve.

‘Having been with the organisation for the past year I am more than ready to take on the challenge, build on our success and drive Mama Bear’s forward.’

Chris will be supported by outgoing managing director and owner Tony Driffield, who is moving to a chairman of the board role.

Mama Bear’s was founded in 2002 and provides childcare for children aged three-months to five years. The Mama Bear’s group now has 16 settings in Bristol, 5 in Devon and 3 in Somerset.

More information on Mama Bear’s Day Nursery & Pre-Schools can be found at


‘Waste Not, Want Not’ – apetito supports WRAP’s Food Waste Action Week

As figures show the UK wastes over 9.5 million tonnes of food each year, (with a value of over £19billion), which would be associated with more than 25 million tonnes of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

Meals provider to the nursery sector, apetito, has pledged its support to WRAP’s Food Waste Action Week (#FoodWasteActionWeek), 1 – 7th March.

Adding its weight to other brands who are joining forces to drive awareness of this increasingly big issue – and the associated impact that food waste has on climate change – apetito has reinforced its commitment to wasting less food and in turn reducing the impact on our global environment.

The company currently sends all its food waste to anaerobic digestion (which produces renewable energy and reduces greenhouse gasses).  In addition – and as part of its commitment to the Courtauld 2025 initiative – apetito has pledged to halve food waste from its manufacturing operations.

All its business units embrace the same principles of supporting waste reduction from top to bottom across its business.  Every step of the production process is continually under review to ensure as a business, apetito ‘leads the way’ in responsible trading.

Lee Sheppard, director of corporate affairs and Policy, said:

‘Food waste is a subject of environmental and socioeconomic concern in its own right – however, the associated impact on climate change is not widely known.   Food waste actively feeds climate change, which is of increasing concern and relevance to us all.

‘It’s a worrying fact that food waste produces six-times the amount of greenhouse gas emissions as global aviation, and WRAP’s own research shows that while 81% of people in the UK are concerned about climate change, fewer than 30% can see a clear link with wasting food.

‘Right now, 70% of all food wasted post-farm gate in the UK is wasted by consumers in their own homes.  As a country, households throw away more than 6.6 million tonnes of food that could have been eaten, and that’s before we consider any food waste across Hospitality, Foodservice and manufacturing establishments.

“We fully support and applaud WRAP’s campaign and believe that with businesses and households working together and all ‘doing their bit’ – that collectively, we can make a real difference.’

WRAP is looking to drive awareness that wasting food is one of the biggest contributors to climate change.  When we throw away food that could have been eaten, we are not just wasting food but the valuable resources that went into making it, including water, land, and greenhouse gases.

Check out: ‘Love Food – Hate Waste’ @LFHW_UK for further details on how we can all tackle food waste and the associated impact this has on climate change.


Inglenook nursery school in Birmingham finds new owner

Business property adviser, Christie & Co, has announced the sale of Inglenook Nursery School in Birmingham. Funding for the sale was sourced through Christie Finance.

Inglenook Nursery School is a prominent, reputable day nursery with huge potential for growth under new management. The business sits in a converted residential property with significant playroom space and ample car parking for pickups and drop offs, and has an effective operating capacity for 55 children aged three months to five-years old.

Inglenook benefits from being located close to a busy commuter route in a densely populated residential area in Birmingham. The suburbs of Selly Park, Edgbaston, Moor Green, Moseley, Harborne, Selly Oak, and Kings Heath are within close proximity to the nursery, and Birmingham city centre is just circa three miles away.

The business has been purchased by existing day nursery operator, Lowdan Holdings Limited – which trades as Mereside Farm Children’s Nursery – which has been actively looking for second site for a while.

Speaking on behalf of the company, Mr Alan Lowe commented:

‘We had been looking for some time to purchase another nursery and felt the location, size and potential of Inglenook was what we were looking for. It fits in nicely to our portfolio as it is performing nowhere near its potential and we intend to renovate and rejuvenate the site, extending it slightly while redesigning the layout to make fit for purpose.’

Jassi Sunner, associate director at Christie & Co, who handled the sale, added:

‘Any instruction in Birmingham is going to get a range of interest due to the number of buyers looking in the West Midlands. One that is so central with a prominent building along a commuter route provides unimaginable potential to tap into the changing demographics of the area. We were delighted to be instructed on the sale of Inglenook Nursery School and worked closely with our client and their complex needs to agree a price and then complete the sale successfully in a short amount of time.

‘Alan and his team have a strong reputation in South Birmingham already, and we look forward to seeing him make his mark in Central Birmingham and introduce this ethos successfully into a second setting.’

David Ward, senior director at Christie Finance, stated:

‘I am really pleased to have supported Alan and Ruth with their expansion plans and am delighted that we could not only find finance for them, but managed to fund it under the CBILS scheme, which resulted in many cost savings. This was not a straightforward purchase, but we were able to provide a vital link between the buyers and the lender which enabled the purchase to complete.’

Inglenook Nursery School was sold off an asking price of £725,000.