Rachel Finan is a qualified teacher and completed Early Years Professional Status (EYPS) in 2007. Since achieving this, she has become a visionary and inspirational leader in her setting, ensuring that the nursery keeps abreast of new initiatives in child education. She also delivers training for staff and evaluates the impact of any new programmes or resources. She challenges practitioners to move beyond their comfort zone and push themselves professionally.
Rachel has also designed policies and procedures for transitions, both for moves within the nursery and for when children leave the setting to start school.
Judges praised Rachel's 'strong commitment to continuing professional development, good sharing practice and cascading knowledge'.
This is not limited to the staff in her nursery or the chain, but also includes a wider audience. She addressed a Leeds City Council early years conference on the role of the EYP, demonstrating the positive impact that the status is having within local nurseries, and has made links with Bradford College, where she gained her EYPS.
Through this link, her nursery has mentored EYP students, with Rachel supporting the students in their written and practical work. The placements have proved to be mutually beneficial. From the setting's point of view, positive impacts include the nursery children having the advantage of another graduate-led member of staff.
Doreen Malcolm, lecturer at Bradford City College, says, 'Because Rachel is an EYP, she understands the journey candidates face, so she acts as a great support and sounding board for candidates who are often overwhelmed when looking after children for the first time.'
By involving herself in the wider professional community, Rachel is able to research new initiatives to implement with the team, including the creation of a music and movement area, while also communicating ideas and practice to others. Ultimately, she shares her passion for the early years with all the people she comes into contact with every day.
Nichola Gill, Falmouth Nursery, Fit 'n' Fun Kids, Cornwall
Nichola has demonstrated personal drive, determination and commitment in her own professional development, working towards her BA Hons in Childhood Studies in her own time, while working full time and raising two young sons.
She also inspires those she works with as daycare manager to perform at their best. Nichola supports knowledge and understanding to ensure the team is highly trained, confident and capable of delivering high-quality childcare.
She wrote the chain's in-house training programme, 'Empower Your Team', which the managing director notes is aptly named - Nichola really does empower all those who she works with.
Lucy Waterman, Open Blue Trust, Wiltshire
Nominees must have gained Early Years Professional Status.
Sponsored by Early Years Resources.co.uk