All About Children buys Nelly’s Nurseries to expand London base

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Nursery group All About Children has bought a family-owned chain of four nurseries in South-East London taking its total settings to 17.


Nellys' Nurseries

The expanding chain was established in 2010. Owner Russell Ford said it had no immediate plans to acquire more, but instead wanted to focus on supporting the four new nurseries through the transition.

Nelly’s Nurseries group operated 195 places across Dulwich and was started by husband and wife team Jez and Sarah Hill in 2002.

Two of its settings at Turney Road and Rosendale Road are rated Outstanding by Ofsted.

Mr Ford said, ‘We’ve bought Nelly’s because it is a fantastic group and its reputation in the area is stunning. For a small group it would be hard to find anything better.

‘When new buyers acquire a group there’s a really big challenge to make sure the process is handled well. So we have no plans to beyond making sure there’s a smooth transition for the nurseries over the next few months. We’re not like most of the other acquiring groups. We have no corporate owners, so we have no pressure to grow. We just want to do the sensible thing and run a high quality group.’

He also confirmed the acquisition marked a strategic change of direction for All About Children.

‘In the past we have found nurseries that had been in need of turnaround and acquired them very cheaply. This was because we had a very limited budget and wanted to establish a small group quite quickly.

‘Now we are using the profits we generate to change strategy and buy high-quality, well-established nurseries. So it’s due to our change of circumstance.’

Former Nelly’s owner Sarah Hill told Nursery World, ‘We opened our first nursery in 2002 to meet our own childcare needs. Since our boys have long since left the nurseries, it feels like the right time to step aside.

‘We have had a wonderful 14 years running and developing Nelly's. The industry has changed significantly in that time and there are a number of challenges for providers today which simply didn't exist 14 years ago. That said, it remains the best thing we have ever done. 

‘The All About Children group appears to be an excellent fit for our business. We share a similar ethos and approach which we believe remains refreshing in the sector. We are confident that together with the exceptional Nelly's staff team, Russell and his group will continue to provide the highest quality experiences and care for children and their families.’ 

All About Children now has 1,485 places and has been steadily growing since it was founded by Mr Ford in 2010 – it entered the Nursery Chains largest nursery chains league table at 23rd in 2012 and rose to a high of 12th place in 2014.

Since then other chains have overtaken it, but this acquisition looks set to lift All About Children to 16th place in the table.

Mr Ford has been in the childcare sector for over ten years and is the former chief executive of Asquith Nurseries.

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