Chester day nursery joins Thrive Childcare and Education Group

A leading Chester children’s nursery has become part of the Thrive Childcare and Education Group, which is growing its presence in the region

Rated ‘Outstanding’ by Ofsted in its two most recent inspections, Benison Day Nursery in Eccleston becomes Thrive’s third nursery in the Chester area. It caters for 113 children, aged from birth to five years, as well as providing an after-school club and holiday club for children up to the age of 11. 

Founded 36 years ago by Principal Julie Swinnerton, who originally lived on the site, Benison Day Nursery has grown to three separate buildings housing babies, toddlers and pre-school children, each with their own garden. 

Julie explained: “We started with one building for pre-school children and there was just myself and three staff. I lived in the house and brought up my four children there.” 

The nursery quickly expanded, with current nursery manager Jan Tunnicliffe joining 26 years ago. Julie’s daughter Beci Grieve joined straight from college and is now Deputy Manager, while Jan’s daughter Hannah runs the nursery’s popular Forest School.  

With such strong family connections, it is no surprise that the children come first as Sarah Dee, Thrive integrations manager, explains: “Benison is a highly successful and well-run nursery, with a strong focus on children’s active learning and development, which is well-integrated into its local community. 

“It has a wonderful forest school, a school gardening award from the Royal Horticultural Society in recognition of the children’s achievements in growing and harvesting produce and its own cookery school, where children learn cooking skills and about healthy eating and nutrition.” 

Both Jan and Julie agreed Thrive was the right choice to take ownership of the nursery because of their shared ethos of putting children first and because of Thrive’s commitment to the dedicated nursery team. 

Julie said: “We want Benison Day nursery to maintain its reputation as an outstanding setting with the highest quality standards. We also recognise Thrive’s commitment to providing our team with the best professional support.” 

Nursery manager Jan Tunnicliffe added that Thrive’s ethos of delivering an outdoor-based curriculum fitted well with the nursery’s commitment to engaging the children with their learning through activities such as the forest school and cooking school. 

Michael Forrester, head of nursery acquisitions for Thrive Childcare, said: “We have again added a high-quality setting to our group. We look to add the best nurseries in local areas to our group and Benison is the best nursery in their area. 

“By acquiring successful nurseries, we can ensure the nursery team, children and parents experience no disruption during the handover and integration, as there is no need to make changes to the way they are run.” 

Michael thanked Thrive’s solicitors TLT and accountants Mazars for their professionalism, speed and accuracy in supporting the acquisition. 

Benison Day Nursery becomes Thrive’s 47th nursery in North West England and Scotland. Established 20 years ago, Thrive has acquired a number of high-quality nursery groups including Happitots, Holyrood, Corner House, Bright Beginnings and Enchanted Forest, as well as successful independent nurseries including Smarties Nursery in Cotton Edmunds, Chester. 

Any nursery owners interested in selling their nursery, or who would like to have a conversation to explore the process, are invited to speak with Thrive’s acquisitions team by contacting Michael Forrester at [email protected]. For more information about Thrive Childcare and Education, see

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