With two London nurseries up-and-running and two more due to open before the end of February 2020, N Family Club is heralding the way for a new style of nursery group – one that’s turning to its own nursery team to help shape its future. The start-up company, which was founded in 2017 focuses on bringing families and communities together in the often-fragmented city of London.
Aesthetically-pleasing buildings with Scandinavian-inspired interiors and cleverly-designed spaces are all part of this new nursery group’s brand identity. A self-service breakfast bar, stocked with fresh bagels and coffee is available free-of-charge for parents each morning, where they can socialise with other parents or catch up on some work before they head off on their commute. Roof-top gardens with tepee-style tents; mini football pitches and adventure playgrounds; outdoor water play features and slides are just some of the features that attract parents to the settings in Stoke Newington and London Fields – and the soon-to-launch nurseries in West Hampstead, in December, and Brixton, in February.
Education director Sarah Mackenzie says, ‘As a new start up we have the opportunity to build a new type - and style - of nursery group. Our nurseries are purely focused on what it’s like to be a child or a member of the team or a parent. We have a rapid expansion programme in place and by the end of 2020, we plan to have nine settings up-and- running. Our team have a key role to play in shaping what we are creating and they are rewarded with an extensive benefits package, which includes a sabbatical and an around-the-world ticket as a long service reward, as well as free lunch, coffee and homemade smoothies every day.
‘So far, one of our art graduates and qualified teachers now runs her own Atelier, which she had the idea to set up, and another room manager with a keen interest in sustainability has launched swap and repair workshop for parents.
‘On a day-to-day basis we’ve stripped out all unnecessary paperwork and administrative work so that our educators can dedicate their time to educating and our managers can dedicate their time to leading, mentoring and coaching. Bringing functions such as waiting list management centrally really frees up our teams to be the best - and have fun in the process.’
The Importance Of Art
Zoe Boltt, an early educator and artist, started at N Family Club as a marketing intern after graduating from art school. After being involved with the launch of the first nursery in Stoke Newington, which has received an Outstanding Ofsted rating, she realised that she wanted to go into teaching. ‘The company supported me to do an employment-based PGSE, which involved one day off a week to attend lectures and a six-week placement at another setting. During this time, I realised importance art in children’s early years development, particularly in relation to the Reggio Emilia approach and the 100 languages for the child to express themselves.’
Zoe’s passion for art has led her to be involved in running the art curriculum – and earlier this year she transferred from Stoke Newington to London Fields, to open her very own atelier, a dedicated art room for the children, which she designed with support from management. She has also been involved in running art workshops for the Family Club, an initiative aimed at bringing families together for monthly activities ranging from a visiting farmyard to cookery classes and immersive theatrical shows.
‘It’s been a bit of a whirlwind,’ she expresses. ‘I couldn’t ask for more, in terms of career progression and support and encouragement from my peers to further my role. In the future, I’d like to run more workshops and be involved in rolling out the art curriculum to the entire company.
‘It’s a very exciting and motivating organisation to work for. We have four values which define our work ethic: go beyond; deliver the highest standards; be passionate about education and play as a team. They are talked about a lot during meetings and we can nominate other team members for abiding by these values and there are regular ‘Shout Outs’ on Whats App from our managers.
‘One of the best benefits for me is the Christmas bonus and the referral bonus in which you get £500 if a friend passes their probationary period. The around-the-world-ticket is amazing - definitely a great incentive to stay for five years. I also love the shared café space where we get to hang out with the team. The way it’s laid out feels like a family living space and we enjoy our daily smoothies and homemade food in this area.’
With a passion for teaching children about issues surrounding sustainability, Catherine Southard, room manager at Stoke Newington, had the idea to run a children’s clothing Swap and Repair Shop at a weekend Family Club session, to fight back against the issue of fast fashion.
She says, ‘There’s a lot of scope to help push the company in directions that you believe are most beneficial for the children. N Family Club empowers me to follow through with my ideas around environmental education for the children and other initiatives, which gives me a huge sense of value.
‘The support from my line manager has made me feel able to pursue teaching on the subject of the environmental crisis with the pre-schoolers. They know about issues such as plastic pollution, air pollution and animal extinction from human activity. They have a love of nature from our daily forest school program, and we are currently working on a project about the importance of trees. We are hoping to culminate in planting a tree in the local community so they feel they are making a positive impact on their local air quality.’
Catherine has worked at the company since the beginning. She holds a BSc in Psychology, an Early Primary PGCert and she recently gained an MSc in Educational Neuroscience. She’s also using the N Family Club £250 annual personal development grant to take Spanish lessons in her free time, something which is giving her a sense of fulfilment outside work.
She explains, ‘Another great benefit is Wellbeing Week, where we were able to book in for massages, flu vaccinations and eye tests to ensure our physical and mental wellbeing are catered to. I attended a mindfulness workshop and I have started to implement the things I’ve learnt into my day. We also get free access to the Headspace App, for mindfulness, which helps with this.’
Termly performance bonuses are offered, which complement the nursery group’s performance-related pay scales and support the high-performance culture that has been created. Holidays start at 29 days, including bank holidays, and a day off for your birthday, and increase to 33 days with length of service. The N Academy training facility supports the team to gain their level 3 or an early years degree whilst working at the company. There’s no uniform and the team receive an annual contribution of £100 toward clothes. All team members are automatically signed up to an Employee Assistance Programme, which offers online and face to face counselling, citizens advice and wellbeing support.