Family nurseries sold to Children 1st

Jo Parkes
Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Children 1st has added two nurseries to its collection after expanding in Staffordshire.

The company, which claims to be the largest family-owned nursery group in the UK, struck the deal with the owners after they decided to retire from the Leek-based business.

Carol and Ken Leech opened Buckingham’s Nursery School on Buxton Road in 1997, which recently received its third consecutive ‘outstanding’ rating from Ofsted.

They established a pre-school at Leek First School in 2012, which was recently rated ‘good’.

The pair approached the group with the proposal because of their reputation for quality in the region and personal knowledge of the Mason family which owns Children 1st.

Mrs Leech said, ‘I have put my heart and soul into the nurseries during my career.

‘When I made the decision to retire I wanted to ensure that the nurseries would be run by a company which shared the same values I did and which would continue to deliver excellent childcare to children in Leek.

‘I have known Children 1st and the Mason family for several years and know that they share the same ethos as I do and I am delighted that the nurseries will be part of Children 1st.

‘With 63 per cent of the company’s nurseries rated as ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted against a national average of 13 per cent, I am confident that standards will be maintained.’

Through the acquisition, the group, which now operates 20 settings in the Midlands and South Yorkshire, has boosted the number of places it offers by 200, to 2,000.

Now with four nurseries in Staffordshire, including two others in Meir Park and Upper Tean, it offers 310 places within the county.   

The company, founded in 1988 by executive chair Margaret Mason and an employer of 600 staff, is also hoping to boost jobs in childcare locally, with a focus on apprentices and young people considering a career in the sector.

Ms Mason said, ‘Both nurseries are very well run and we are keen for this to continue and improve where possible, through increased training and development.

‘Our staff are the lifeblood of the company and as such are supported with an array of training and development opportunities both in nursery and within our training academy in Long Eaton, Derbyshire.’

Ms Mason added, ‘We already have a presence in Staffordshire and therefore this acquisition presented a perfect opportunity for us to further enhance our business in the county.

‘It is a pleasure to welcome both nurseries to the company. 

‘It will be good to get to know the staff, families and children at the new nurseries.

‘I’m already aware of the wonderful work undertaken at both settings and I look forward to working with everyone to enhance the provision still further. ‘I hope that the nursery staff enjoy being part of Children 1st.’

The company is reassuring children, parents and carers that they should notice little difference with the change in ownership.

All current members of staff will continue to be employed and the opening hours will not change.

Since its launch, Children 1st has, on average, opened a nursery every 18 months.  

From its first nursery in Long Eaton, the company has grown to a multi-site operation, describing its brand as ‘offering the very best in childcare and education in quality, homely environments’. 

The purchase of the nurseries has been supported by The Royal Bank of Scotland. 

Spencer Ford, senior relationship manager at Royal Bank of Scotland, which supported the deal, said, ‘Providing support to such a well-run and reputable local business is a real privilege and we look forward to continuing to aid any future expansion they may undertake.’

Children 1st was recently named as a finalist in the ‘Nursery Chain of the Year’ category in the Nursery World Awards

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