Busy Bees buys Kids 1st nursery group

The largest nursery chain in the UK has acquired Kids 1st Day Nurseries, the ‘outstanding’ group of 11 nurseries.

Based in the North East of England, the group recently topped Nursery World’s Nursery Chains Ofsted quality table for the fifth year running, with the highest score possible.

All of the group’s inspected nurseries have achieved outstanding grades. One nursery is awaiting its first inspection and two more are due to open under the brand.

The acquisition means that Busy Bees will operate 249 nurseries and employ more than 8,000 staff. According to Nursery Chains, Busy Bees provides 21,735 places. Kids 1st currently operates 11 nurseries and has 1,178 places.

Busy Bees said that it had wanted to expand in the North East for a number of years. The operator has a long history of acquiring other nursery groups and operates nurseries under several different brands. Other recent deals include Caring Daycare and Kinder Nurseries in 2014.

Earlier this year the chain acquired its first international nurseries, buying 60 settings in Singapore and Malaysia, from Knowledge Universe.

Managing director Marg Randles said, ‘We are delighted to welcome Kids 1st Nursery group into the Busy Bees family. Every nursery in the portfolio is already providing exceptional outcomes for children and we are all really looking forward to working with the extremely talented teams in place.

‘It is an absolute pleasure to work with such experienced managers and devoted staff, all of whom will continue to play the most important role, providing quality care for the children in partnership with their families. Meanwhile we will be working very closely with the management team to ensure this transition is as seamless as possible for everyone involved.’

Mark McArdle, the Kids 1st managing director, who has been involved in the business since it started in 2004, said, ‘Over the past 12 years we have built up one of the most successful nursery businesses in the UK.

‘It has been an incredible journey and a fantastic team effort from everyone involved. We were understandably precious about who we sold the business to, but I believe that in Busy Bees we are handing over the reins to someone who can continue the Kids 1st ethos and build upon the success we have achieved.

'I’d like to thank everyone who has helped us along the way and I wish Kids 1st and Busy Bees every success in the future.’

  • Co-founder and chief executive John Woodward is receiving an OBE today for services to childcare. Co-founder and managing director Marg Randles was also honoured last month.

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