Do you find there are similarities between social care and the early years sector?
I worked for just over 15 years with young people and adults with learning disabilities and am surprised at how much crossover there is. Of course, you have to understand childcare and all organisations are different, but I'm very lucky that the staff team at Treetops are so committed and passionate.
Does the Treetops group have plans to expand?
We're very proud of the services we're delivering at the moment. We're aiming to open new services or acquire existing settings, from standalone nurseries to small chains of up to 20 settings.
If people have quality nurseries that they're interested in selling they should get in touch with me.
What are your thoughts on current Government policy? For example, are you offering early education places for two-year-olds?
Quite a lot of our nurseries are providing the two-year-old places. You have to get used to working with a range of Government initiatives, although the challenge here is what the Government can afford and what it costs operators to run the service.
I'm used to working in a regulated environment, working with the CQC (Care Quality Commission). Regulations will continue to change and it's important to have a strong national voice.
We, as a sector, need to be consistent in the message we're delivering. I think we're doing it relatively effectively, but there is always an opportunity to be more strident. I believe we need to lobby and speak to Ofsted directly and try to work positively with them.
What are the latest developments at Treetops?
There are some good opportunities for e-learning and we have a project on this with the University of Derby. We will be using e-learning for staff induction and for mandatory training initially.
We have a planned programme of updating and refurbishing our nurseries and their outdoor areas. Our latest is Fulham, which should be completed in March. We're using an interior designer to create different zones and environments to reflect the needs of children at different ages and stages in their development. For example, the homely style of the baby room is very different to the stimulating colours in the pre-school where education is a priority.