Interview - Sylvia Tiffney

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The director of the nursery in Stallingborough, Lincolnshire has been awarded an MBE for services to children and families

interview

Sylvia Tiffney

WERE YOU SURPRISED TO HEAR YOU HAD BEEN AWARDED AN MBE?

Genuinely a complete surprise. I was stunned, a little overwhelmed and incredibly grateful to be recognised with this honour.

WAS WORKING IN CHILDCARE SOMETHING YOU ALWAYS WANTED TO DO?

My twin sister and I were the eldest in a family of seven with five younger brothers, so we were very involved in caring for siblings from a young age. I thoroughly enjoyed my time with my own three boys growing up, and this led to me volunteering at the local pre-school. I learnt a great deal from this experience.

Following my time volunteering at the local playgroup I became more involved when my second son joined the setting. The leader was leaving, and I was asked to take over. During this time, I became chair of the local branch and participated in all the national AGMs. I undertook lots of training provided by the then Pre-school Playgroups Association (PPA) and the local authority. It was a very different time with parent partnership and community development at the heart of the movement.

WHY DID YOU DECIDE TO OPEN A NURSERY WITH YOUR TWIN SISTER?

When my children were older and at school, I was approached by a company to establish the first full day nursery in the area. During this time of huge demographic change, I was asked to establish a group of nurseries with NHS trust and FE colleges across Yorkshire and Lincolnshire.

After 12 years with the company I felt the time was right to move to working for myself and be in control of decision-making, to lead a quality-driven service. My sister had trained to be a Montessori teacher trainer. We established the first Montessori centre in Lincolnshire and The Children’s House was born in 2000.

WHAT CHANGES HAVE YOU SEEN?

Big changes in the standards and quality of provision. Greater opportunities for professional development from the late 1990s. An increase in women returning to the workforce. An over-emphasis on school-readiness rather than early learning as a phase in its own right.

WHAT HAVE BEEN THE BIGGEST CHALLENGES IN YOUR CAREER?

Personally, balancing more than a full-time job with study. I undertook a Master’s degree, which proved challenging alongside work. Ensuring the quality of the practice and provision we provide while managing a tight budget – it is increasingly challenging to offer excellent professional development for the staff team, particularly recently due to central Government cuts.

WHAT HAVE BEEN THE HIGH POINTS?

Being part of children’s daily lives is a joy, and getting feedback from families about children’s time at nursery is very rewarding. Building a strong, effective and passionate team has been a real high point. I know they will continue to advocate for the rights of children to have great experiences.

WHAT DOES THE FUTURE HAVE IN STORE?

For me personally, retirement soon. I have relocated to North Yorkshire and I will enjoy time with my family and friends. But I’ll always be on hand to support an incredible team.

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