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Focus – Snapdragons Sunshine Circles: Supporting social and emotional development

  • Snapdragons opened in 1998 and has continued to deliver high quality childcare across England. Anna Gent, quality and training manager at Snapdragons Nurseries speaks to NMT about using Sunshine Circles and how it benefits the children at Snapdragons.



Hot Topics – Lockdown woes

  • Hands up who is feeling fed up with the limitations of lockdown living? Susan McGhee, CEO of Flexible Childcare Services Scotland shares her lockdown woes but looks ahead to brighter days.



Technology – Funding Loop: Why going digital can transform your operations

  • Working in a nursery can be a tough job and that’s without dealing with amount of admin that comes with it. Khayam Ezzat, owner, Funding Loop describes the advantages of digital solutions.


Special Feature – Don’t be frightened of communicating with your parents

  • The last few months have put incredible pressure on children’s nurseries across the UK, with many struggling to keep their doors open as the Coronavirus pandemic took hold. Here, the Family First children’s nursery group explains how continually involving parents in their decision-making has paid dividends in terms of customer relationships and helped them keep their doors open.


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From virtually nothing

Entering another lockdown at the beginning of 2021 was a massive disappointment for the sector. During the last 12 months, those working across the industry have faced unprecedented challenges. That is on top of the funding limitations that were crippling before the pandemic.

Ultimately Covid-19 completely upended childcare providers. It is a provision that is pretty much impossible to emulate online, unlike at schools or universities. That being said, coming from virtually nothing soon grew to a whole range of digital solutions that have enabled providers to reach parents and their communities in a new way.

Technology is changing the childcare model to bridge a gap in areas in which parents are more reluctant to send children to nurseries. Overall, there has been a lot gained by how we communicate with parents, staff and children. In this issue, NMT speaks to Khayam Ezzat from Funding Loop about how digital solutions are transforming nursery operations. From this pandemic, a number of different childcare models have emerged. Undoubtably, technology has been critical to the survival of the sector during the pandemic, however face-to-face provision, rather than virtual, remains the priority.

The road to recovery will be a long one. The sector will remain attractive to investors. The childcare market is still highly fragmented and so there are benefits to be gained from consolidation. While there was a pause in deals during the first lockdown, market activity has picked up. Christie & Co witnessed a 9% increase in the number of offers received per transaction in 2020 compared with 2019. The majority of those deals were very close to the pre-pandemic asking prices.

Furthermore, looking back on previous financial crashes, the sector tends to rebound quickly following recessions and is typically more resilient than other industries. Distress in the market does create buying opportunities and the market is expected to consolidate faster.

However, the cost of delivering childcare increased significantly while local authority funding shortfalls widened. On top of the new issues facing providers, the old problems like staff retention and funding have still not been resolved and now is not the time to become complacent as we begin to look to moving out of lockdowns permanently.

Briony Richter
Editor, Nursery Management Today