Nursery Management: case study - Joining up

Meredith Jones Russell
Monday, March 24, 2014

Kinder Nurseries is the latest provider to become part of Busy Bees. But what was the thinking behind the deal? By Meredith Jones Russell.

Earlier this month, Kinder Nurseries was bought by Busy Bees, the largest daycare company in the UK.

Kinder Nurseries, which owns 11 nurseries in Kent and one in London, offers a total of 1,044 places for children from three months to five years, and an additional 346 places in holiday and out-of-school clubs.

The company also owns Meredale Independent School in Rainham, Kent, which it acquired from the local council in 2004, restoring the building to its former Edwardian appearance and, prior to its re-opening in January 2005, changing its name from Meredale Infant School to Meredale Independent School. It offers 140 registered places for four to 11-year-olds.

Kinder's management team consists largely of parents, many of whom have worked for the chain for more than ten years.

The company prides itself on being a family-friendly environment, with every nursery featuring a 'meet and greet' service for nursery managers to welcome parents and children each day.

The group's nurseries are housed on purpose-built, single-storey sites in park-like surroundings outside the centre of town, with CCTV facilities in most settings and outdoor areas accessible from most rooms.

All nursery menus are approved in advance by a dietician to ensure they meet Government guidelines. Dairyand gluten-free and vegetarian menus are provided.

'A WELL-RESPECTED REGIONAL GROUP'

With the acquisition of Kinder Nurseries, Busy Bees now runs 226 settings across the country. The company employs and trains more than 7,500 staff and provides care for more than 20,000 children.

Meredale Independent Primary School, which the chain also took over as part of the Kinder acquisition, has now become the first school to be operated by Busy Bees.

Steve Eccleston, development director for Busy Bees, handled the Kinder Nurseries acquisition along with the group's lawyers and accountants.

He says, 'In terms of sourcing the company, the overriding opportunity for us was the fact that Kinder was a well-respected regional group in an area of the country in which Busy Bees was under-represented.

'We're very pleased to have completed the transaction and to be able to welcome Kinder Nurseries into our group.'

Busy Bees is currently focusing on its newly acquired staff and parents to ensure the transition is as smooth as possible, with no nurseries undergoing rebranding immediately.

Marg Randles, managing director of Busy Bees, says, 'We are delighted to welcome Kinder Nurseries and Meredale Primary School into the Busy Bees family and really look forward to being part of their future.

'We will continue to work closely with the management team to ensure the handover is as seamless as possible for children, parents and staff.'

MANAGER'S VIEW

Kelly Doherty, the manager of Kinder Nurseries' Brompton setting in Gillingham, has worked for the company for three years. She said the family atmosphere attracted her to the chain.

'We've always had really good management, a great team and lovely families. I think in childcare you can walk in somewhere and get a feel for it straightaway. Before my interview had even started I knew I wanted to stay.'

Like the majority of Kinder's management team, Ms Doherty is also a parent. She believes this adds to the company's personal approach.

'I have a son and obviously he has been through nursery and after-school clubs, so when I'm talking to parents I can understand and empathise with them. That's very important to me.'

Ms Doherty says she is relishing the new challenge of the change in management.

'Of course, when we were first told there was a lot to take in. But we've had so much support from Busy Bees that we've been really reassured, and now we've digested the information it's getting exciting. We're all ready to get going.'

The Kinder Nurseries settings have been each assigned a 'buddy' nursery from the Busy Bees group to answer questions, as well as a regional officer in to address any potential issues.

On the support Busy Bees has provided, Ms Doherty adds, 'Levels of childcare have really taken a step up in recent years. There's a lot of training available and that's very much the case with Busy Bees. It provides a lot of short training courses itself, so you have them right at your fingertips.

'I think the underlying principles and policies at Busy Bees are the same as ours. It's good to know we're all working for the same outcome. You always want the best for children, whether they're your own or children you're looking after.'

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