Category Archives: news

Lives of the under-fives strikingly different from a generation ago

A new Nuffield Foundation evidence review published today reveals the extent of changes to family life in the UK over the last 20 years.

Children under five today are the first in which a majority are in childcare or formal education and have both parents in paid employment. Furthermore, young children today are more likely to be in blended families, have older parents and fewer siblings.

The review found that the increasing financial insecurity is posing a significant to children’s early education and development. 37% of families where the youngest child is under five are living in poverty. Rates of child poverty are higher for children from ethnic minority groups and for children living in families where there is a disabled adult or child. Almost half (48%) of lone parent families are living in poverty. This is likely to increase with the economic fallout from Covid-19.

Carey Oppenheim, author of the review and Early Childhood Lead at the Nuffield Foundation said:

‘Being a small child today is a strikingly different experience to a generation ago, as changes in family life and socio-economic circumstances intertwine to shape children’s experiences and their outcomes. Young children today are much more likely to be in formal childcare and to start school earlier. They are more likely to have older parents who are likely to both be in paid work. They are likely to have fewer siblings and a greater chance of experiencing a variety of family relationships if parents separate and re-partner. They are more likely to be living in precarious financial and housing situations and particularly so for the younger generation of parents.

‘These changes are fundamental – impacting where children are looked after and by whom and how they are spending their time. The early years are such an important stage of life that it is essential we understand fully what has changed, the inequalities between families and what we should be doing to enhance the well-being and life chances of young children over and above the confines of early years policy.’

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

‘This report rightly highlights how central a role early education now plays in the lives of young children, and the negative impact that a lack of access to quality early years provision can have on early learning and development, particularly for children from more disadvantaged backgrounds.

‘It’s clear then that to ensure that all children, regardless of background, get the best possible start in life, we need to have a functioning, sustainable early years and childcare sector. And yet, as this report notes, many nurseries, pre-schools and childminders across the country are at imminent risk of permanent closure as a result of both sustained government underfunding and the impact of Covid-19.

‘If the government is truly committed to supporting children and families, it simply must ensure that the early years sector gets the financial support it needs to remain viable, both now and in the long term.’

Response to the Spending Review 2020

The Chancellor, Rishi Sunak has delivered the spending review as the UK faces a harsh economic emergency.

The “economic emergency” caused by the pandemic has only just begun, according to the chancellor as he warned that there would be significant lasting damage to growth and jobs.

Official forecasts now predict the biggest economic decline in 300 years and the economy is expected to shrink by 11.3% this year.

The pandemic has already caused job losses but the Government’s independent forecaster, the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) expects the number of unemployed people to surge to 2.6 million by the middle of next year.

As the Chancellor announced spending, the early years sector looked to more support after months of being on the frontline. However, the Government stated that it will invest £44 million in funding for early years education in 2021-22 to increase the hourly rate paid to childcare providers for the government’s free hours offers.’ This is down from the 2019 Spending Review that announced £66 million.

Purnima Tanuku OBE, NDNA’s chief executive said

‘We welcome any increase in investment for the early years sector by the Chancellor. A further £44 million amounts to an increase of just over 1.2%. However, this won’t help providers meet all the rising costs of delivering the government’s childcare policy while also responding to the pressures of the current pandemic.

Childcare providers, who have worked so hard throughout the pandemic for parents, key workers and vulnerable children, deserve support and recognition. Childcare places will be essential in any economic recovery, but this won’t be possible if those who deliver these places are put into financial hardship.

Nurseries are facing a double whammy of reduced income and maintaining measures to keep settings as Covid-secure as possible.’

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

‘While we welcome any new support for the early years sector, at a time when so many early years providers are on the brink of closure, it is frankly insulting that the government is continuing to tinker at the edges rather than committing to properly funding early years provision in this country

‘With the Treasury today committing to billions of pounds in spending on schools, it has to be asked: is this the best that we can do for our young children?

‘Nurseries, pre-schools and childminders have been on the frontline throughout the pandemic, providing quality care and education in the most challenging of circumstances – but that harsh reality is that without a substantial investment into the early years sector, we will start to see providers shut their doors, parents lose vital childcare and children prevented from accessing critical early education.

‘For the sake of providers, children and families across the country, we urge them to rethink this decision, and commit to providing the significant investment that the sector actually needs.’

June O’Sullivan, CEO of London Early Years Foundation (LEYF):

‘It is clear we are still not recognised for our contribution to the national infrastructure. Its seems unfair that  despite all our help during Covid, schools get £2.2 billion and we get a fraction of what we need. Despite all the research both educational and economic we still have a DfE that cannot get the support of the Treasury. Maybe they need to understand the issue better. What is clear to me is that we need a different conversation to avoid the road the madness.’

Courteney Donaldson, managing director of Childcare & Education, Christie & Co, commented:

‘During today’s Spending Review, Rishi Sunak announced a 2.2% increase in the UK National Living Wage, taking it to £8.91. This is very positive for child sector workers, however, adequate funding needs to be provided by government to providers. The nursery sector has been underfunded for many years and financial sustainability has been further compounded by the coronavirus pandemic.

‘Many early years providers across the country have operated at notable losses this year due to the initial lockdown which commenced in March. While being permitted to reopen to the wider public during early summer, the cost of delivering childcare has significantly increased during recent months and the funding shortfall has widened at an alarming rate.

‘Sunak said that the health emergency is not over yet and the economic emergency has only just begun. Early years childcare settings were pivotal at the beginning of the pandemic, as they provided support to front line and key workers, and they are absolutely fundamental in assisting the recovery of the UK’s economic condition. The sector needs to be truly recognised for the phenomenal contribution that it has made and the underfunding that it has received over many, many years needs to be adequately corrected, now more so than ever.’




Mama Bear’s lockdown fun for Children in Need

Children at Mama Bear’s Day Nursery and Pre-Schools across Bristol have had to get creative with their Children in Need fundraising efforts this year in order to abide by Covid rules.

Instead of the usual bake sales, raffles, teddy bear picnics and spare change collections, the tots have enjoyed pyjama days, crazy hair days, bear hunts and Pudsey crafts to mark the important cause.

And instead of donating cash parents and carers supported the charity via an online link raising over £1000.

Tony Driffield, co-owner of the family-run Mama Bear’s group, said: ‘We are great supporters of Children in Need every year and each one of our nurseries took part in some activity to raise money for the charity, albeit in a different way this year.

‘As with most things in 2020 we got creative to ensure we still raised a fantastic amount for the cause and gave the children a week of fun activities to enjoy and remember.

‘Every day was a dressing up day with a couple of crazy hair days thrown in as well. The nursery managers also organised a host of additional activities including arts and crafts, games and story time sessions.

‘This charity has always been close to our hearts as it is all about helping children.  We’re so pleased to have raised such a fantastic amount, especially under the circumstances of this year, and we hope it makes a small difference to those in need.’

Mama Bear’s offers high-quality, affordable care across the South West. Established in 2002 the group now includes 24 nursery settings in Bristol, Somerset and Devon which are consistently rated by Ofsted as Good or Outstanding.

To donate visit

Eyeing up expansion plans: N Family Club strenghtens leadership team

Despite the challenges of this year, there are some opportunities to be found and many are now looking to grow.

London-based Early Years Education Group N Family Club have announced two new appointments to their leadership team. Joining is the new chief people officer Odette Schwartz – formerly people director at Bill’s Restaurants, and head of HR at Nando’s.

Odette Schwartz

Odette Schwartz

Odette’s arrival closely follows the appointment of chief financial officer, Jon Temple, formerly the UK finance director at Pret.

Founded in 2017, N Family Club set out to rethink early years. With a progressive approach to education, their own newly developed curriculum and team training academy, plus a clear focus on building quality experiences & a community for their parents, N Family Club are truly committed to creating a new kind of nursery group for today’s families.

Their decision to add Schwartz’s experience to their leadership team, comes as the group opens their 5th and 6th London nurseries – in Stoke Newington & Twickenham, respectively. With plans to open a further 10 sites next year and many more beyond, founder & CEO Phil Sunderland welcomed Odette & Jon, to support him in accelerating the company’s dynamic expansion programme.

Speaking of the new appointments, he said, ‘In spite of the challenges, 2020 has been a hugely transformative year for N Family Club, and I’m really excited to welcome Jon & Odette to our leadership team. Adding to the best-in-sector knowledge that Sarah Mackenzie brought from her experience at Childbase Partnership & Asquith last year, we’re now joined by two standout specialists, who will be crucial in designing and driving N Family Club’s Finance & People functions forward as we scale.’

Blog: Wellbeing through the winter

During the long, dark winter months it can be difficult to keep morale high and especially difficult this year with potentially more lockdowns and isolation.

Briony Richter spoke to Linda Baston-Pitt, Director PurpleBeeLearning about the importance of wellbeing during the winter.

1. With the dark mornings approaching and night’s drawing in, what is your responsibility as a leader for keeping your team’s wellbeing protected.

For many staff juggling work and family commitments throughout the pandemic, has been difficult but the bonus of longer days, good weather and being able to get outdoors has made it more bearable. However, we know the Winter months can be a difficult time for people as the days get darker and colder and whilst the run up to Christmas can be an exciting time for many, this year in the midst of COVID it is also likely to be a very tough time for some. Leaders need to be aware and recognise that not everyone is going to be feeling at their best as they struggle with disrupted routines, missing their colleagues as well the up and coming pressures of Christmas that all can take its toll on the team. On a positive note, so many settings continue to introduce new and innovative ways to support and protect their team’s wellbeing – starting with looking after ourselves and each other.

  1. Are there activities or methods that can be done at home that you recommend to your staff?

Everyone’s approach to supporting staff wellbeing will be different but looking after ourselves and each other is the essential battery recharge we all need, to ensure that we have the mental and physical energy to deal with today’s challenges. As a way of keeping their staff team motivated and engaged, Kindred Nurseries used our free Wellbeing Wins Toolkit with the whole team. It’s a practical activity that encourages staff to check in on their own wellbeing across the key hygiene factors of wellbeing that include good diet, sufficient sleep and regular exercise. Each person created their own wellbeing action plan by deciding which areas they felt needed nourishing and then chose some simple steps to try out that would help to improve their wellbeing in that particular area.

  1. Darker hours mean more time spent indoors and less physical activity for many children. What is your advice for maintaining a healthy and physically fit lifestyle through winter?

It’s been widely reported that during lockdown many children and families have not been able to get enough regular physical exercise and Vitamin D, which we know can lead to a number of problems including; poor sleep patterns, reduced immunity and increased stress levels. Nurseries play a such a vital role in supporting physical activity and promoting healthy lifestyles which will be even more important throughout the winter months. I think the key to maintaining this will be to ensure all staff are involved in the development of long term and daily curriculum plans, that provide a positive environment for physical play and movement by integrating physical activity opportunities throughout the day. One of our PANCo’s worked with their team to create a bank of age-appropriate physical play ideas that included slow and vigorous activities that included, sensory tummy time sessions, obstacle courses and outdoor treasure hunts. The activities were integrated into the day to day routine in and outdoors and shared with parents which they then continued  at home.

  1. What have been some PANCo highlights you have witnessed this year?

There have been so many, but what has really amazed us is the incredible enthusiasm and passion shown by all of our PANCo learners throughout their training despite the added challenges. Their feedback has been heart warming with students sharing some wonderful stories about the impact its already having on the health and wellbeing of their setting as a result of doing the course;

‘We are already beginning to see the impact with  a clear improvement in children’s snacks that they bring from home, and parents and carers are eager to attend our next workshop.’

‘Since studying on the PANCo course I have been inspired to make positive changes to the way I eat and exercise and hope that I can give staff and parents the knowledge they need to make changes to their own lifestyles. I plan to continue to support both staff and parents in building their knowledge on physical development and healthy eating.’

  1. What have you learnt from this year?

On a personal level when I’ve felt overwhelmed or anxious, I’ve actually followed my own advice by writing down short lists of the things that I felt I could control and the things that I couldn’t. I found it really helped me to focus on the positives and to keep a realistic perspective.

On a professional level I’ve realised just how important networking with my colleagues is. We’ve needed to communicate with each other more than ever and I’ve really valued the opportunity to share like never before not just best practice, but our emotions about how we really feel. I think it has brought us all closer together on so many levels. I just hope moving forward that this culture shift will leave us better communicators and collaborators post Covid.

Linda Baston-Pitt Director PurpleBeeLearning  @LindaEarlyYears @PurpleBee_Learn


Nurseries and the Use Classes Order

The Government introduced significant changes to the Use Classes Order in England, which came into force on 1 September. Described by Boris Johnson as “the most radical reforms to our planning system since the Second World War”, a recent Judicial Review claim against it has just been thrown out, meaning the changes will definitely go ahead.

Class D1 (non-residential institution) and Class D2 (Assembly and leisure) uses have been abolished, along with Classes A1 (shops), A2 (professional services), A3 (restaurants) and B1 (offices).

The majority of these uses have been merged into a new ‘Class E’, including:

  • Shops, offices and restaurants
  • Medical or health services
  • Creche, day nursery or day centre

Changes between these uses will not require planning permission, and should lead to increased flexibility between these uses.

Those parts of the current Class D1 not incorporated into Class E are transferred to a new Class F1, including public halls and places of worship, many of which are occupied by nurseries (now in Class E).


The intention is to provide flexibility to support the diversification of the high street; the effects of Covid-19 may have accelerated the Government’s introduction of this reform.

The additional flexibility may be broadly welcome, but there are implications, beneficial and adverse, for nurseries.

More opportunities to expand

Nurseries will now be able to occupy a wider range of space, including High Street / retail space without requiring planning permission.

Where retail or an office is being considered for a new nursery it may, nevertheless, be prudent to confirm that there are no historic planning controls, such as conditions or S106 agreements, that would continue to apply and prevent occupation as a nursery.  A Certificate of Lawfulness application could be obtained to confirm this formally.

A scarcity of D1 property has historically driven demand and therefore also rents and prices. With a constrained supply of D1 property, we have seen very strong demand for D1 property from nurseries, particularly in affluent residential locations.

With some retail and the casual dining sector on its knees and many commercial occupiers assessing what Covid-19 means for their businesses and operational requirements, we anticipate a number of vacant offices, retail units and restaurants will come onto the market, and thus, a greater number of opportunities for operators to expand into new settings.

Will property values now plateau due to increased supply? It is too early to tell, but could be good for a new entrant seeking a rapid expansion.

Nursery operators might now be spammed with unsuitable property opportunities (multi-let, no outside space, incompatible neighbouring uses) by well-meaning high street and commercial agents with little or no expertise in the nursery sector and no grasp of locational and operational requirements.

That said, many vacant offices and restaurants will indeed be suitable for nurseries. For example, out-of-town offices and restaurants, with parking and good connectivity. Think of the detached carvery-type restaurant, often well-located on the fringe of a town centre, with ample parking and perhaps also a large beer garden which could convert easily to a nursery with outdoor playspace.

Change of use to nurseries

Churches and educational establishments will now require a change of use for nursery use. This is a headache, as it is time consuming and has cost implications, and also carries planning risk (i.e. no guarantee planning permission will be granted).

The likelihood of planning permission being granted will depend on the drafting of existing planning policy, the attitude of the Council and, potentially, also local considerations and pressures.

Many Council’s planning policies seek to protect “social and community facilities” which often include the (former) D Class uses.  An applicant may now need to demonstrate that a change of use to Class E to facilitate a nursery would be consistent with the intention of the policy.  It is likely that, should a Council grant planning permission for the change of use to Class E, the Council would impose a planning condition that would limit the use to nursery use only within Class E, to prevent a unit granted planning permission for a nursery subsequently converting to a shop or restaurant, and therefore negating the intention of a social and community protection policy.

Unauthorised / uncertain changes of use

As a result of splitting halls, education facilities and churches into Class F1, and nurseries into Class E, it is unclear when a facility is operating within its permitted use i.e. does a pre-school, operating within school hours during term-time, constitute an educational facility (Class F1), a nursery (Class E), or a combination of the two (sui generis)?

Is there is going to be a debate as to whether planning permission is required to run childcare facilities from a public / church / village hall, (a huge number of which are used extensively during the week as nurseries), and, if so, at what point a change of use occurs? Weekday childcare operators never previously needed to worry before about the detailed requirements that can be raised by the planning system.

For church halls, we hope that that planning permission would not be required where it could be shown that the nursery use is ancillary to the primary religious function of the building.

User Clauses – Leases

We recommend user clauses within existing leases are reviewed to establish the extent of flexibility a leaseholder may now have, which will vary depending on the circumstances of the property and lease.

Issues may arise at rent reviews. If advising on a rent review of a nursery with an old ‘D1’ User Clause, we would hope sensible lease consultants refer to only nursery rental evidence. However, a dispute may arise if alternative uses provide a materially higher or lower tone of rental evidence.

Effect on value – negative / flat?

In our experience, the highest rents and prices paid for churches and church halls have been for nursery use which, as they are income producing, can generally outbid religious orders or community groups, whose income is derived from donations.

The additional planning risk, and time and cost requirements of obtaining a Certificate of Lawfulness (if required) may affect values or basis of offers, for uses remaining within Class F1 such as churches.

Nursery operators and investors have informed us they have discounted offers to reflect planning risk, or that offers made are now conditional on a change of use/Certificate of Lawfulness. Generally, this is bad news for the vendor.

For example, we have recently sold a valuable D1 (now F1) property in an affluent London location. An education investor informed us they had discounted their offer for the freehold by 10% to reflect the new perceived planning risk. An additional party submitted an offer on a conditional basis, which carried risk for the vendor.

On the other hand, this could be good news for the commercial landlord with a vacant commercial building, as now, more valuable uses such as nurseries could be established. Whilst many commercial sectors are in distress, nurseries were one of the first sectors to return after lockdown and remain open during Lockdown 2.0. There are several new entrants acquisitive for new settings; demand from nurseries for well-located commercial premises could outstrip demand from traditional commercial sectors.

Effect on occupancy – negative?

Several operators have expressed concern to us, that occupancy levels may fall if new settings opening up within their catchments. If more available property creates more settings and registrations, demand for places and occupancy levels are in turn likely to drop. A good quality operator opening a new nursery within one’s catchment, will likely have an adverse effect on occupancy, unless demand within the catchment is very high indeed or you benefit from a waiting list.




There appear to be many unintended consequences of the reform, which is generally bad news for nurseries in the middle of a transaction or planning system, but longer-term we would hope to see increased supply and therefore more opportunities for operators seeking to expand.



For more information, please contact:

James Wickham – Partner, Planning

Morgan Allen – Partner, Education & Nurseries


Flexible Childcare Services Scotland to transform old Fintry Nursery

Flexible Childcare Services Scotland (FCSS) has announced that it has been granted a new licence to renovate the old Fintry nursery, which has been derelict for almost 10 years.

Looking ahead, the charity plans to refurbish and transform the nursery to become a fully functioning childcare facility for 70 children as well as a community services hub within the grounds.

Councillor Anne Rendall, Convener of Dundee City Council’s Neighbourhood Services said: ‘It’s great to see the handover of the building to FCSS as a result of the council’s Community Asset Transfer scheme.

‘FCSS’ plans for the building and the multiple services based from the facility will undoubtedly benefit the local community. I wish them every success for the future.’

Councillor Mark Flynn, Convener of Dundee City Council’s City Development said: ‘The development plans for the building are very impressive. FCSS will look to effectively modernise the old nursery site and make the most of the available space.

‘It’s great to see FCSS’ plans for the building and for a community-based cause.’

FCSS, a national charity who already manage settings across Aberdeenshire, the Highlands and Islands and in Dundee, was created after it was found that parents were unable to accept offers of employment due to a lack of high quality, flexible, and accessible childcare services.

The redevelopment of the old nursery will provide affordable and accessible childcare for families at a crucial time. The pandemic has highlighted large cracks in the system which has directly impacted a family’s ability to access childcare. Furthermore, it will also provide a unique space for the community with initiatives that include a food bank, a repair-reuse-recycle scheme and use of the extensive outdoor space.

Susan McGhee, chief executive at Flexible Childcare Services said: ‘We are delighted to receive the licence from Dundee City Council, it means that we are one step closer to creating our first centre of excellence; a community hub with childcare at the core with a range of family and community services led by local people.  This inclusive and collaborative, model, based on the values of the Place Principle, will demonstrate how accessible childcare with wraparound family and community support services can deliver improved outcomes for everyone.’

FCSS has also been awarded Access to Childcare Funding to create a new out of school childcare facility for 24 children in the nursery’s grounds.

The Access to Childcare Fund, funded by the Scottish Government and managed by Children in Scotland, will provide a means for FCSS to deliver accessible and affordable school age childcare for low-income families in the area. This will allow parents to reduce childcare costs, work more flexibly and increase their incomes.

Children in Scotland chief executive Jackie Brock said: ‘We’re very pleased that Flexible Childcare Services Scotland (FCSS) will be able to use this funding to support out of school care for families.

‘FCSS’s offering typifies the childcare provision that is being backed by the Access to Childcare Fund across Scotland.

‘All the funded providers have a strong focus on supporting families who are often the most excluded from the benefits of high quality out of school and holiday services.

‘That experience of exclusion needs to end, and we want the learning from the Fund to contribute to every child benefitting from such services.’

Lesley Tait, Flexible Childcare Scotland’s Dundee Manager said: ‘This is a unique space with an extensive out door area in a built-up community. The funding will allow us to create a modular satellite building in the garden for out of school care. Children are becoming more disconnected with the natural world, and this funding will support us to create an environment for the them to delve unhindered into nature.

‘This space would contribute to the children’s risk taking and would encourage health and wellbeing. We will resource and introduce tools for imaginative play; loose parts, cooking outside, fire pits, and den making. This is an experience that many of the children will not have had access to previously. A full outdoor out of school care that engages all children, including those with Additional Support Needs, and caters for their needs and development within a specialised area.’

While the building renovations take place out of school care will primarily be delivered outdoors, providing children with a unique learning experience before and after school and throughout the school holidays.

Children’s thoughts

The children are also very excited with the new plans, according to Daisy (aged 7): ‘I’m excited for the new garden because there will be more space for me to run.’

‘At the after-school club I love baking and eating all the food. In the new building it would be good if we can bake outside, toast marshmallows and cook BBQs with sausages!’ Jasmine (Aged 9 years).

‘I like playing with Lego, drawing and painting! I have made so many new friends at the after-school club.’- Ellie (Aged 9 years).


Edx Education looks ahead to a busy Christmas

As we edge close towards Christmas, present shopping is at the top of our lists. An incredbibly busy time although it wouldn’t seem like it if you took a stroll down a high street. That being said, the hustle and bustle continues online.

Edx Education is looking towards a busier Christmas this year, following unprecedented worldwide growth in the educational toy market in 2020.  During lockdowns parents ordered more educational toys to keep their children occupied and continue their learning.

According to Technavio, the global educational toy market will grow by $24.30bn during 2020-2024. ‘Factors such as the increased emphasis on STEM toys, and the increasing number of investments in the market will have a significant impact on the growth of the learning toys market value during the forecast period,’ said a senior analyst at Technavio.

In the wider toy market, retailers are seeing a big reduction in impulse buying due to less time being spent in ‘non-essential’ toy shops, combined with cautious spending patterns.  This is resulting in parents making more considered buying choices, opting for educational toys with longer play value.

Heather Welch, international brand manager at Edx Education, commented: Open-ended learning toys represent great value as they have endless play options and encourage creativity, critical thinking and independent play skills.  Our Rainbow Pebbles are a perfect example of an open-ended learning toy as they can be sorted according to size, shape or colour, stacked to build a structure, or can be used to create a picture or patterns and so much more.’

According to Technavio’s report, sustainable and eco-friendly ‘green toys’ are expected to experience a particularly favourable growth in popularity as parents increasingly look for ways to lessen their impact on the planet.

Heather Welch continued:

‘As market leaders, we recognise our responsibility to find alternative manufacturing processes and materials which are kinder to our planet. We have recently launched eco-friendly versions of some of our best-selling toys, which are made from a natural Fibre Particulate Composite (FPC) material, derived from 100% agricultural waste from rice husks and stems.  This is a great alternative material as it is fully recyclable, breaks down in the environment and produces minimal pollution with large savings in water and energy during the manufacturing process.’

Many parents now are seeing first hand the benefits of educational toys. According to a recent FanFinders survey conducted with over 4,000 mums, 76% consider playing and toys ‘vital’ for their child’s development with 88% of mums saying they actively encourage child-led play.  The survey found that both expectant mums and those with young children consider education and developmental potential the most important feature of a toy.


Heather Welch concluded: ‘With over 30 years in the educational toy market, we are delighted to see parents embracing home-learning more than ever. Not only does it create a perfect synergy between school and home learning, but it also encourages bonding experiences between parent and child, and gives parents a better understanding of their children and how they learn.

‘Learning Though Play has long been recognised as the most effective form of learning for children in early years.  The process allows children to ‘learn without realising’ and develops concentration skills, curiosity, speech and language, social and emotional skills, cognitive development, critical thinking, gross and fine motor skills, and more.  With parents supporting their child’s learning, they are helping build confidence and a love of learning that will last a lifetime.’

Sunhill Daycare Nurseries Group joins The Old Station Nursery Group

The Old Station Nursery Group has announced its recent acqusition of Sunhill Daycare Nurseries Group, an outstanding group of 11 nurseries.

Sunhill Daycare (Europe) Nursery Group was first established in 1991 by Geoff Chapman and it cares for children aged 0-5 years in nurseries located across Cambridgeshire, Essex, Hertfordshire, London and Suffolk. Each setting is accessible to the communities around them and have a well-established reputation for delivering high quakity care and support to families and their children.

Sarah Steel, managing director of The Old Station Nursery Group, commented:

‘We are really pleased to welcome each of the nurseries within the Sunhill Group into The Old Station Nursery family. We are very excited to welcome all children, parents and staff members into our very special community.’

‘As a group, we strive to continue to innovate ways in which we provide the highest standard of learning and care to all children. We look forward to working closely with each nursery to enhance the expertise and potential that lies there.’

Geoff Chapman added:

‘After developing Sunhill Daycare for approaching 30 years, I am delighted to hand over the baton to international daycare operator La Maison Bleue’s UK subsidiary, The Old Station Nursery Group, capably led by CEO Sarah Steel.’

The Old Station Nursery Group launched in 2002 and comprises of 19 nurseries located across Oxfordshire, Warwickshire, Gloucestershire, Berkshire, London, West Midlands, Staffordshire, Worcestershire, Lincolnshire and Essex. Now with Sunhill Daycare Nurseries joins, The Old Station Nursery Group will care for children across 30 nurseries.



Covid-19 series: briefing on early years, October 2020

Ofsted has published its second report in a series highlighting the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on children.

The report stated that many children have left early years settings since the first national restrictions and have not returned. Almost all providers said that the pandemic had significantly impacted the learning and development of children who had left and subsequently returned.

The lack of socialising during the lockdown has had an impact on children’s confidence and social development, This has been noticed and raised by many providers once children return to the settings.

This report answers four broad questions based on evidence from the research interviews:

  • What is the current state of early years provision?
  • How have children been affected by the first national lockdown?
  • How are early years providers planning to maintain standards in education and care through the pandemic?
  • How financially sustainable is the early years sector?

The impact on children’s learning and development

Almost all providers stated that the first lockdown had a significant impact on children’s learning and development. Providers identified three groups of children when talking about this impact:

  • Those who continued to attend the setting.
  • Those at home who were well supported by parents who were able to spend time with them.
  • Those at home with parents who were not able to spend time with them.

One in five providers thought that all their children had been impacted in a similar way. However, most were more concerned about the learning and development of the following groups of children:

  • Children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).
  • Those who speak English as an additional language.
  • Children living in poverty.
  • Those whose parents were not engaging previously.

Children from disadvantaged backgrounds did not have the same access to toys and tools that are integral to early years learning and play.

Purnima Tanuku OBE, chief executive of National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA) said: ‘This detailed report demonstrates just how essential childcare and early education is for children’s development, especially during what has clearly been a traumatic time for children and families.

‘It’s very commendable that childcare providers have been working extremely hard to support children particularly with their personal, social and emotional development as well as increasing their physical activities outdoors to build up their strength and fitness. It’s really positive to see the impact that nurseries are having on children’s learning which is highlighted clearly in this report.

‘Most nurseries were open during the first lockdown providing high quality emergency care and those who were closed were still reaching out to children to support them in their family homes virtually through activities.

‘But nurseries continue to face huge financial and staffing challenges and must be supported in order to offer this all-important high quality care and education. Every pound spend in early years saves money in their later education so this is where resources must be focused.

‘NDNA has been calling for urgent recovery and transitional funding for childcare providers to support them through this crisis and enable them to engage with children to limit the impact this pandemic has on their young lives. That’s why we’re asking the Chancellor to include a Plan for Childcare in his Plan for Jobs within the Comprehensive Spending Review.’

Commenting, Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Early Years Alliance, said: ‘At a time when there is so much focus on access to ‘childcare’ element of early years provision, this report is a timely reminder of the vital early education that nurseries, pre-schools and childminders are delivering every day, and the tangible impact that losing access to this education can have on young children.

‘We know that many providers who were forced to close during lockdown worked incredibly hard to stay in touch with and support families throughout that period, and continue to show great commitment to supporting children’s wellbeing and development as they settle back into their nursery or childminding environment.

‘It is vital, however, that the early years is given adequate support to do this. As such, it is incredibly disappointing that the government has still failed to extend the ‘catch-up’ funding given to schools to support children who have been negatively impacted as a result of missing education during lockdown to the early years sector.

‘Providers have done an incredible job of supporting children in their care throughout this pandemic, but they should not be left to tackle this challenge alone. It’s time the government remembered that early years provision is not just about getting parents back to work – it’s about delivering high-quality learning and development opportunities at the most critical time of a child’s life – and started providing the support that the sector needs to continue doing just that.’