Investment in staff and strong community awareness has helped Children 1st @ Breedon House to dramatically improve standards at a nursery it acquired in Grantham in 2007. The nursery was recently judged outstanding by Ofsted, bringing it up to the same level as four of its other settings in Derbyshire, Leicester, Nottingham and Yorkshire.
The family-run business headquartered in Long Eaton, Nottinghamshire, has recently made two acquisitions, bringing its total number of settings to 15. Currently 1,652 children benefit from its services and a total 332 staff are employed. It also runs a training academy.
At the nursery in Grantham, the Ofsted inspector particularly praised the professionalism of staff and the ‘excellent’ relationships established with parents.
Jacqui Mason, managing director, says, ‘Strong children and parent partnerships have been developed through ongoing feedback and evaluation from those attending the setting. This feedback has been used to develop the provision to meet all the requirements of both children and carers.’
Children 1st is also widely praised for creating a positive company culture in which staff feel valued and motivated to achieve their best. All staff are encouraged to provide ongoing feedback and network across the group, giving them a close dialogue with management and a say in how the company operates.
During a recent Investors in People assessment staff were quoted as saying the company was ‘great to work for and felt like being part of one big happy family’.
This culture was also commended when Children 1st scooped the Nottingham Business of the Year 2011 award and Derbyshire’s People Excellence and Development 2011.
Director Cathy Griffin says, ‘We continually work to ensure that our staff feel valued and that they understand their individual performance is vital. It is they who are ambassadors for Children 1st and are ultimately responsible for delivering best practice for all our children and families.'.
Both Jacqui Mason and her head of operations, Julia Mason, are confident they are ready for any proposed changes under the revised EYFS.
'All our practitioners are skilled in providing reasonable evidence rather than endless documentation for children,' says Julia. 'The emphasis on parent partnerships has always been an outstanding area for us and our key person approach already supports the emotional wellbeing of each child.
‘There has been much debate about children and readiness for school. While we encourage all children to leave us as happy, confident, well rounded individuals, we have to recognise all children are different and very special. The question should be – are our schools ready for our children?’
Children 1st is currently gearing up for its annual staff conference, awards and dinner which will take place at the Sheffield Park Hotel.