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A family affair

  • Sue Churchill sat down with Sarah Mackenzie, N Family Club’s education director, to talk about what rethinking early education means for them, what’s behind their ambitious talk and why working at N really is a family affair.



The fun factor

  • 2019’s Manager of the Year, Alex Jones, outlines his personal approach to unleashing potential, tracing the journey he has travelled with his staff team





Into the woods

  • Tom Richardson, whose nursery won the Forest School category in the NMT Nursery Awards, gives his advice on how to set up and run a forest school


Sue Churchill and Briony Richter

If winter comes…

…can spring be far behind?

As I’m writing, it seems the turning point has come in this dreadful, persistent, destructive winter. There are daffodils and tulips in the shops, primroses on wasteland, all little gems giving us a taste of the positives in the coming year. While here in NMT, we are in a springlike, celebratory mood. So, looking ahead to a bright new spring and summer, we are revisiting some of the successes from last year’s awards. They say 60 per cent of start-ups close within three years. That makes the success of N Family all the more impressive. This innovatory new business is steadily expanding, and in the Focus column it shares its impressive journey with readers. Every year, readers ask about the catering awards. What’s it like to take part in the cook-off? What do the judges expect? Now’s your chance to find out, as dietitian Nigel Denby, one of the judges, takes us behind the awards and – crucially – tells us what it was about the winner that assured her place at the top. All in all, seven NMT winners open up to readers, whether it is to share their success or to pass on to you what they have learnt. The importance of injecting some fun into the everyday experience. What it really means to nurture apprentices and why it matters. Why room leaders need proper management training and mentoring. What emerges very strongly here, as it has throughout the eight years I have been editor, is the deep commitment – to the point of readiness for battle with the biggest Goliath – to the need for children to play. Child-led play. Exposure to stimulation and difference. Storytime. Role-play. Quiet time. Adult-led play. Getting filthy. Developing their own views, skills and imagination. All the time, they are learning through doing, talking, showing, listening, seeing and hearing – and don’t forget tasting. Healthy eating, which means children eating what is right – and delicious – for them whatever their age. The sector has been working hard both to raise the nutritional standards of food both at nursery and at home and to win the battle against obesity. I admire you for this. All this is leading up to my goodbye. After eight years, I’m retiring and instead of cramming my interests (and my friends) into spaces around work, I am going to be expanding my interests and catching up with old friends. I will be thinking of you all and I am behind you all the way. I raise a glass to you all as defenders of the right of children to have a happy childhood grounded in play. I raise my glass too to NMT’s new editor, Briony Richter, who will be in post by the time your open this magazine. Briony comes to you with great enthusiasm for early years and a wealth of business experience, which takes in time in the press office at the British Chamber of Commerce. Before that, she worked on a number of business magazines. Intriguingly, she is also a political animal, working previously for a US Congressman and later Tim Farron, the former Lib Dem leader. She knows her stuff, and you can expect her to lead the magazine to greater success.

Sue Churchill

Editor, Nursery Management Today