Thrive Childcare and Education acquires The Village Nursery group

Catherine Gaunt
Wednesday, February 23, 2022

Thrive Childcare and Education has acquired The Village Nursery group in Cheshire and Greater Manchester.

From left: Former owner of The Village Nursery Julie Lightly, director of operations Emma Jones, CEO of Thrive Cary Rankin,  Thrive chief financial operator Will Newton and, and former owner of The Village Nursery Ian Lightley
From left: Former owner of The Village Nursery Julie Lightly, director of operations Emma Jones, CEO of Thrive Cary Rankin, Thrive chief financial operator Will Newton and, and former owner of The Village Nursery Ian Lightley

Founded in 2005 in Alsager, near Stoke-on-Trent, by Julie and Ian Lightley, when they were seeking a nursery for their own family, the Village Nursery Group grew to nine settings, employing 250 people and offering 664 places.

Thrive has purchased the eight nurseries and one pre-school in Alsager, Crewe, Warrington, Knutsford, and Trafford Park.

While Thrive will operate the nurseries, they have entered into a sale and leaseback arrangement with Jurassic Portfolios for the freehold sites within the group. 

The deal means that Thrive now operates more than 40 settings across the North of England and Scotland.

Thrive CEO Cary Rankin said, ‘Village Nursery Group is an incredible group of nurseries, all with either “good” or “outstanding” Ofsted ratings. Julie and Ian have invested in developing great facilities and a fantastic and committed team, who we look forward to working with.’ 

Julie and Ian Lightley bought their first two Townhouse Nurseries in Alsager after their daughter Jessica, now an apprentice nursery nurse within the group, was born.

Julie said, ‘As our group has grown, we have retained the individual names and character of the nurseries because they are very much part of the communities they serve. When we were talking vision and values with Thrive, it was clear they shared this commitment to ensuring each nursery meets the needs of its local community.' 

When they started, Julie said, they were fortunate to have an extremely skilled and knowledgeable team. 

‘We were blown away when we took the nurseries on,’ Julie said. ‘I had found my passion and wanted to lead by example, so I studied for an early years degree in Manchester, followed by a Masters Degree in Birmingham, which Emma Jones, our operations director, and I managed to achieve together. I realised continuous learning was essential.’ 

A year later, they bought Trafford Park Nursery in Manchester, which they doubled in size. Nurseries in Warrington, Knutsford, Congleton and Crewe followed, with some being saved from closure.

As the Village Nursery Group has continued to grow, the couple said they realised it was time for support from a larger group to continue to develop their beloved nurseries, investing in the local and management teams and ensuring they have the resources to succeed. 

‘As the group has grown, taking it forward requires so much more energy and investment –in time and money,' Julie said. 

‘After 17 years, with our three children growing up, we want some time for ourselves, without talking about nurseries, and valued time to spend with our family.’ 

The group’s long-serving director of operations Emma Jones is staying on with Thrive to ensure continuity and a smooth transition. 

‘I really love the people we have worked with. We have nurtured and mentored the management team so they could deliver what the nursery teams needed to support and have a positive impact on the children,’ said Julie.  

‘Going into the nurseries and seeing the happy faces of the children and the staff being so inspired and enthusiastic to share their learning journey has been a joy.  

‘The teams have shown great resilience during the turbulence of Covid-19, they were there to support every family and child and help the nurseries to bounce back and become stronger. I know they will continue to thrive.’

  • For the latest on the UK's nursery groups -  including our table of the 25 biggest groups and analysis of their Ofsted grades -  don't miss the spring 2022 issue of Nursery Chains, free with the March issue of Nursery World

 

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