Interview - Sally Arscott, director of YMCA Fairthorne Group

Monday, September 22, 2014

YMCA Fairthorne Group runs 11 early years settings across the south of England, with 700 childcare places.

What is the history of the group's early years settings?

Our first nursery was Fairthorne Manor in Southampton, which we took over the running of in 1998. Five years later we opened the St Vincent Nursery in Gosport, followed by Little Whale Nursery in Portsmouth and St Mary's Nursery on the Isle of Wight.

In 2006, we won a tender from Southampton City Council to manage two of its settings, Townhill and Weston Park, linked to Sure Start children's centres. We then opened Winchester House Nursery on the Isle of Wight, situated in our residential centre for school-age children.

In April we took over the running of the nursery in Portsea, Portsmouth, from another provider, and just a few weeks ago opened a setting in Woolston located in Southampton's new Centenary Quay development.

You have grown substantially in the past 12 months. What is the reason behind this?

Our growth has largely been driven by increased demand for childcare - in particular, the rise in the number of disadvantaged two-year-old places.

At the end of last year, we expanded the Fairthorne Manor setting at a cost of £170,000 to increase the number of places from 89 to 128. The nursery now takes up the whole of the manor house's ground floor, whereas before half the space was used for offices. The extension also included the creation of a new staff room and a more welcoming entrance.

This year we opened a 'satellite centre' linked to the Townhouse Nursery, on behalf of Southampton City Council, to provide 16 places for disadvantaged twos and threes.

We are in the process of getting a 'satellite centre' for the Weston Nursery to provide care for an extra 50 twoand three-year-olds.

The new Woolston Nursery, which opened in September, presented an opportunity to acquire a new purpose-built setting in a council redevelopment, in an area with insufficient childcare.

When thinking about a new nursery, what do you look for in an area?

We like to open nurseries within communities and often in areas where we have other services so we can provide all-through provision. YMCA Fairthorne Group also runs holiday and after-school clubs, residential centres and services for families and young people.

Are you planning on opening other early years settings?

We are opening a new nursery in Winchester in January, which will provide 30 places for children from the age of two. We are also looking at other sites within our geographical areas - Dorset, Fairthorne, Gosport, Isle of Wight, Portsmouth, Southampton and Winchester.

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