Interview - Danielle Dixon

Monday, September 3, 2018

Danielle Dixon tells us about her new £1.6m flagship nursery, her thoughts on the 30 hours policy and future plans for her nursery group

You now have nine nurseries. Tell us about the new one.

The new nursery in Eccleshill Bradford used to be a pub. It has a training suite, large extended play rooms, combined office spaces; it is our biggest nursery utilising the extended outdoor play space with natural woodland and investigation areas. We have free-flow from all the play rooms to the outside and a roof-top observation play area for our babies to come outside too. It’s really functional and a creative space.

The extension to the rear of the building is exceptional in its design; we utilised the whole space, digging down to create a multifunctional space. We wanted to retain the history of the building, combining local heritage with the new. It creates a wonderful piece of architecture and modern feature; the colours are fun and perfect for a childcare environment.

kinder-haven-eccleshill

The new flagship Kinder Haven Day Nursery in Eccleshill, Bradford

We’ll be employing more than 30 staff over the next 12 months, with some more staff starting this month and January 2019. The nursery is registered for 116 childcare places, and is our second-largest. We provide funded two-year-old places and the 30 hours. We already have 70 children on roll, higher than anticipated.

With the current recruitment crisis in the sector did you find it difficult to find new staff?

Recruiting the right individuals with the relevant experience and qualification has been a challenge, but we have diversified and changed our strategy to reach out using more social platforms.

How do you make the 30 hours work in your nursery group?

The delivery of the 30 hours sustainably is an ongoing process, one that we are reviewing due to the significant under-funding – it’s hard to deliver high quality at such low rates received from councils and shows the value the Government places on the importance of early years.

We have had to change our funded model to make it work and be creative in our delivery. It’s currently working, but with more wage increases, pensions contributions, rates and continual staff training, maintaining a high-quality nursery no doubt will prove difficult going forward.

The councils lowered funding in April. It is a challenge to deliver high-quality learning environments at £4.20 an hour, which could be set until 2020 in Leeds and Bradford.

We’re hoping that something does change soon and that we’ll get an increase. Settings are closing locally that have been around for years and the quality of childcare will be compromised.

We provide a number of 30-hour places completely free on selected days and sessions; these are limited. After that, parents have to pay extra for the sessions or for premium activities, like dance, yoga and music. We’re very transparent with all parents so that they know that these are our options available to them.

Do you have plans for more expansion?

We have had a busy 12 months, opening an 80-place nursery in January in Wyke, Bradford, another 80-place nursery in Clayton and our new Eccleshill nursery, so that’s three nurseries this year. We now have 185 employees and 866 places overall.

We’re interested in a couple of properties, but we are keeping our options open and watching to see what happens with the 30 hours.

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