Tributes paid to 'visionary and inspirational' NDNA founder Rosemary Murphy

Be the first to comment

It is with great sadness that Nursery World has to report the death of Rosemary Murphy OBE, one of the founder members of the NDNA and its chief executive until 2005.


Rosemary played a pivotal role in the early years sector, also setting up and running Portland Nurseries in Huddersfield.

The National Day Nurseries Association said, 'As a nursery owner herself, she was passionate about the importance of giving children high quality care and education. Her commitment and enthusiasm defined her time as chief executive here as she supported providers across the sector.

'Rosemary was a visionary and an inspirational force behind NDNA. She will be fondly remembered as a wonderful role model who dedicated her life to achieving the best for all children. As we approach our 20 year anniversary, her legacy will continue.'

Rosemary joined the board of Childbase in 2005. Its founder and chairman Mike Thompson called her 'a remarkable lady'.

'I met Rosemary nearly 30 years ago at a nursery in Birmingham. It was a meeting she’d organised with fellow providers, I think there were five of us, to discuss how we responded to some of the Government challenges we faced.

'We sat, talked and agreed to take on the world.

'A lady who had instant appeal, knew her subject, controlled the discussion, spoke with a passion I’d never seen, and someone for whom I had an instant like and respect. That friendship grew in all the years we shared together going forward.

'She created the National Private Day Nurseries Association (NPDNA), to try to galvanise an emerging sector to lead, rather than be led by, those who knew better than us as providers. She created an environment where consultation began, where Whitehall finally acknowledged a sector existed and should be addressed.

'The fact they seldom listened and always followed their own path frustrated Rosemary each and every day.

'The NPDNA grew. It became clear that ‘private’ was no longer politically correct so she changed the name, well, dropped the ‘P’, to National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA).

Now on to Regional Centres, Sure Start, and a shared belief with those who know better, that the same level of care, where ever you were born, should be afforded to all our children. Her mission was to create eight facilities in the poorest parts of the country offering the same level of care as if you lived in the affluent areas.

'The team, her team under her direction, raised all the funds needed for a huge capital project. All the time she pressed her concerns to those who controlled the purse strings that the funding wasn’t at the levels required to deliver the best outcomes. It didn’t stop her belief in the vision, the outcome or the care, just focused her attention on who would pay for the delivery. The hourly rates were simply inadequate.

'It makes me smile that 15 years on we still have the same discussions. Her frustrations were still evident in her last email to me, via her daughter Anastasia, the week before she died.

rosemary2'A lady with a vision. A lady who believed that the foundations for life are laid in the formative years. A lady who knew we, the providers, couldn’t make the difference to which we were all committed unless we spoke together and louder. A lady whose own nurseries achieved standards to which others aspired. She made the difference.

'The annual conferences started with the few and grew into the event of the year for the sector. Where providers met and shared. Where they finally stopped fighting the battles alone and realised that together they were stronger. Friendships were built, practice shared, suppliers discounted and worlds changed. These were ever changing years, a sector emerging, with someone, Rosemary Murphy, in charge keeping the ship focused and sailing to the right horizon.

'I have missed her company, guidance and friendship for too long. Her illness gradually stopped her living that hectic life she had for so many years. The retreat in France and the family in Huddersfield occupied the precious time that remained.

'A remarkable lady, a friend to so many and a life of change. She made the difference'
Karen Walker, former nursery owner, director and NDNA network co-ordinator, was also a close friend and said: 'Rosy joined NPDNA Kirklees Branch in 1992 and by 1994 had been elected to serve as the Yorkshire representative on the National Board.  It was a time of change for the early years and Rosemary was determined to bring a level of professionalism, developed when a teacher, then in the hospitality industry in Aberdeen, that she felt was lacking. She did not like the attitude of the first Government ministers she met when she felt they were branding day nurseries as 'Cottage industry' and set about driving through change.  

'In 1995, Rosy persuaded the national organisation to come to Kirklees for their annual conference - this was the third and at that Rosemary was elected Chair. This started a period of intense activity as Rosy wrote policy papers, banged on doors in Westminster and raised the profile of the organisation.  

'By 1997 and the change of Government, NPDNA was being invited to national early years policy meetings and establishing precedents that would lead to national early years childcare funding for parents to use in the daycare setting of their choice. Rosy began the process of developing professionalism through a quality assurance scheme, HR good practice guides, and policy and procedure documents.  To ensure nursery proprietors could afford to pay for this professionalisation of their industry without needing to increase charges to parents, Rosy wrote bids to different Government departments and to European agencies to help to fund this development.  

'This led her to seek charitable status for the association to move it away from being a trade association to being the professional body for the sector. In 1999 she achieved that ambition and the  National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA) was launched.

'In 2001 Rosemary's incredible work was recognised with an OBE for her services to the early years.  She was not content to rest on her laurels and set out to develop her biggest project yet, the NDNA Centres of Excellence. During this time Rosemary was also reaching out to her international colleagues and in 2001 and again in 2003 traveled to conferences in Athens and Mexico to speak about the quality assurance scheme developed by NDNA.

'Rosemary's time at NDNA ended with her retirement in 2005, but she returned to her own nurseries and began a period of upgrading and development there.

'The influence Rosemary had during a period of immense change in the early years cannot be overstated. Without her drive and ambition for the sector, the wholesale improvement in quality within the early years would have stalled completely by 2008, when the recession started to bite. By then the inroads made by the NDNA were such that parents and people working in the sector were unwilling to allow standards to slip and although funding was dramatically cut and very big changes made, the striving for quality and the belief in the sector to provide the very best start in life for young children has been maintained to this day.'

blog comments powered by Disqus