Kathryn (Kat) Learner, say her managers, is 'a very special ingredient in the magic we provide for children every day'.
Kat is a qualified teacher with an early years PGCE, who gained EYP Status from the University of Chichester in 2010 and works across a group of Bright Horizons nurseries, managed by the company on behalf of a corporate client.
In just over a year, she has had a significant impact on quality improvement, inspiring staff teams to reflect critically on their work and further improve their pedagogical practice.
She leads pre-school practice across four of BH's Oxford nurseries, and has been instrumental in supporting the integration of the kidsunlimited nurseries into the group.
Kat's peripatetic leadership role is unique at Bright Horizons and its success played a key part in the company's decision to take part in the Schools Direct Early Years Programme.
One example of a transformation that took place under Kat has been the development of an early readers' book club. A staff member who came up with the idea was inspired by Kat to explore how children learn to read and the adults' role in scaffolding learning. The nursery now has a much-used book club that provides parents with guidance and tips on how to support their child's love of books, and the staff member has started to study for a degree.
Kat also leads on the implementation of the Early Childhood Environment Rating Scale quality assessments and uses them to help staff delve deeper into their reflections. The assessments have also led to the co-development of bespoke improvement plans that are owned by the individual nursery teams.
Praise for Kat comes from both senior managers and nursery staff - 'She has an abundance of the qualities of an exceptional educator, but never loses sight of the fun and joy in the work we do'; 'the knowledge and skills Kat has shared will stay with me throughout my early years career'.
Kat deserves this award, say her employers, because she is one of the most thoughtful, wise and inspirational educators around.
Nicola Saunders, 3rd in charge, Hale Day Nursery
Nicola Saunders completed her EYP Status at Manchester University in 2012, while working at Elmscot's Woodlands Nursery. She has now been promoted to the new position of 3rd in charge at the group's Hale setting. Nicola has worked to provide training for all team members at the nursery and has led on revising planning and observation paperwork.
Her work with parents is a particular strength, through settling-in sessions, in putting together support bags on areas such as toilet training for parents to use at home, and in modelling best practice in communicating with parents.
Nominees must have gained Early Years Professional Status or Early Years Teacher Status.