Factors for success

Maintaining operational excellence is a crucial aspect of running a nursery group, as it directly influences the quality of care provided to children and the satisfaction of parents. Briony Richter explores how to find the perfect balance

Achieving and sustaining operational excellence involves a combination of effective management practices, staff development, continuous improvement, and a strong commitment to the wellbeing of children.

Throughout this year, there have been plenty of ups and downs for the sector, but many nurseries across England have been growing their group to delivering more quality childcare across their communities.

Operational excellence begins with a qualified and dedicated team. Regular training sessions and professional development opportunities should be provided to enhance their skills and keep them updated with the latest educational methodologies and safety practices.
The recruitment and mental health crisis is resulting in a damaging blow on the workforce. For small to medium-sized groups with a good number of employees,

Jordan Tully, head of operations at Ashbourne Day Nurseries, offers advice about how supporting staff will ultimately lead to higher retention rates: “I believe that it’s important that staff feel supported, listened to and most of all valued. Having set times to communicate with your teams through supervisions, appraisals and one-to-one catch up are valuable periods that will allow the staff member to feel heard and appreciated. This in turn will gift us the opportunity to retain staff and for the staffing team to feel like this is place to stay and grow their career.”

It’s important as a nursery grows to gather feedback regularly from parents, staff and children to identify areas that need enhancement. It can be a very arduous journey but those around you, especially staff, can help make informed decisions and implement changes that contribute to a better learning environment.

Financial sustainability

Growing a group can be difficult during tough financial times. Cash flow mistakes are incredibly common among growing nurseries if the owner is focused only on driving sales, but investing in quality of care and staffing will lead to long-term financial success rather than a short-term burst.

Tully says: “When we have looked at how we can continue to grow the Ashbourne Day Nurseries group we also ensure that the setting we are looking either to purchase or start from scratch will fit in with our current model, which means ensuring that the location works with regards to the support we can give that setting. This also means ensuring that the setting is in the right location to ensure our offering will be appropriate for the community that the setting will be sitting in. Most importantly we look at what else is in the area; does this acquisition or new setting have the opportunity to allow Ashbourne Day Nurseries to provide the standard of care that we thrive for? Is the setting and the environment enabling enough? Can we provide what we believe is important in this space?

“If you’re currently the sole owner of a single setting and want to start a group, you’ll need to consider whether you have a capable manager already in your roster and offer them a promotion to take on the expansion. If this isn’t the case, it’s time to look externally to develop a management team to complement your plans. Of course, for groups it’s a bit different and growth offers an opportunity to reassess the management team.

“When looking at what setting a high standard means, it’s important to ensure that you and your teams are aware that it’s not always about the resources or the materials that you have access to, although these can be very useful to extend teaching and enhance learning. Some of the best resources are our staff, who can open a world of possibilities and opportunities. High standards can also be set through open ended questions and quality interactions.”

Nursery managers who join during growth can be the aspect that turns the entire process into a smooth and successful journey. Nursery managers with lots of experience will generally command more confidence and permit owners to be confident enough to allow them to take the lead with teams. Having trust in your management team to take the reins when needed ultimately leads to better overall performance and retention rates across the entire group.

By focusing on quality staffing, engaging curriculum, safety measures, communication, staff wellbeing and efficient operations, nursery groups can provide a nurturing and enriching environment for children while building trust and satisfaction among parents. Operational excellence isn’t just a destination; it’s a journey of dedication, adaptability, and a genuine passion for nurturing the youngest minds of our society.

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