Nursery World Awards 16: Organisations - Nursery Chain of the Year

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Mulberry Bush Nursery Group

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This family-run business celebrated its silver anniversary last year with the opening of nursery number five.

The group from Bury in Lancashire was founded by Susan and John Robinson in 1990 and is now run by their children – Paul Robinson, Andrew Robinson and Joanne Kinloch. All Mulberry Bush nurseries have Outstanding grades. The owners say that what makes them so successful is combining the benefits of a family business with the professionalism, investment and innovation found in larger organisations.

‘We are not a nursery group which relies on gimmicks or fads in order to be successful. We concentrate on providing the very best standards of childcare in each of our nurseries, for the benefit of all our children and their families,’ they say. All the staff understand that ‘children come first’, leading to positive experiences for the children and their families ‘from the minute they enter the nursery to arrange a viewing’ to when their youngest leaves to go to primary school.

The nursery has no need to advertise because its reputation ensures that its nurseries maintain 97-100 per cent occupancy most of the year on the back of word-of-month recommendations, with many families sending all their children to Mulberry Bush. A major strength is that the nurseries are relatively close together, without being in competition with each other, which means that the owner-directors and senior manager are able to make frequent visits to each nursery and share management expertise and best practice.

Another big advantage of the settings’ close proximity is career progression for staff. Twelve of the group’s 13 managers have been promoted from within the group. Following a rigorous recruitment process, including several interviews, new staff have a six-month induction and training programme.

There is ‘a really strong group spirit’ and the group employs many sisters, mothers, daughters, girlfriends and boyfriends, enhancing the family feel of the nurseries.

All of the group’s managers are supernumerary with at least two of them in each nursery providing further support for the staff and children.

The group is actively involved in the sector with Jo Kinloch the co-chair of the North West Ofsted Big Conversation. The children and staff have raised £95,000 for more than 40 charities over 26 years and have an ongoing relationship with an orphanage in Kenya.

Judges praised the nursery’s clear focus on quality and the group’s outstanding work with children with special needs.

The nursery’s inclusive ethos and environment means that the local authority’s early years team regularly recommends families of children with complex needs to the nursery. The nursery is the recipient of an Edward Award from Epilepsy Action.

Sarah Beaumont nominated the nursery for its work with her son Joseph. ‘The staff at Mulberry Bush could not have been more supportive of us and Joseph. They have been clear and consistent with dealing with Joseph’s epilepsy,’ she says.

Adele Chisnall says, ‘As a parent of a child with disability, it is often difficult to “let go” of the care of your child to others. Bringing Alfie to this nursery was the best decision I’ve ever made – he’s thrived within a warm, loving environment and the best staff team.’

‘Thoroughly inspirational. Clear vision evidenced through practice’ - Judge

Finalists

Children 1st Day Nurseries

Elmscot Group

Kids 1st Nursery

Kids Planet Day Nurseries

London Early Years Foundation

Paint Pots Nurseries

Criterion

Open to UK nursery groups with three or more settings

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