The chain now operates 31 nurseries and provides 2,056 places across the North of England, and is looking to grow even further in 2016. Christie & Co was the agent for the sale.
Since winning financial backing from venture capitalist Phoenix Equity Partners, Just Childcare has bought 16 individual nurseries in one year, the last being Kingfisher Nursery in the Wirral.
This is the first time it has bought an existing chain and, according to owner David Johnson (pictured right with Jacqueline Johnson), there are others in the pipeline.
He told Nursery World, ‘It’s a mix of group and individual nurseries we are likely to acquire, but we’ll see what comes to the market. We have our eye on the Midlands and hopefully will start expanding there later this year.’
Just Childcare has also begun work on a new-build site in Castleford, near Leeds, which is set to open with more than 80 places by the end of the year.
‘We’ve established a really good support team, and therefore we’ve got the capability to build a bigger and bigger chain. And our equity partner Phoenix has confidence that we can deliver high quality children’s day nurseries,’ said Mr Johnson.
‘The nurseries will all carry on trading as they are. Our policy has always been that we keep the local brand and identity. We’re very keen on having local identity and local service for parents, backed by our professional support centre, which is in development. Later this summer we’ll have put in place our own training for our nursery nurses, including apprenticeships right from school and college.
‘First Class Child Care is a good quality, well known chain with four nurseries in Yorkshire, so we are really making inroads there. It’s a good start to the year.’
Andrew Clifford, former managing director of First Class Child Care, said, ‘This is very much a decision driven by short-term family needs. We’re really looking forward to taking a break and spending time with our young family. We definitely have plans for the future and will stay in the sector, but they are not imminent.
‘I am part of the Play Iceland movement so will be attending conferences in Sweden in June and Seattle in October.
‘There’s a lot coming up in the sector over the next 12 to 18 months and it will need a lot of support, so I am looking forward to doing consultancy work relating to this.’