This is the second time in three years that the Manchester-based group founded and led by chief executive officer Jennie Johnson has won this accolade, after winning Nursery Group of the Year in 2017.
The group now has eight settings, provides more than 1,700 childcare places and employs more than 450 staff.
While acknowledging that outside investment has been necessary to expand, Kids Allowed is back to being a family-owned business after buying out its investors in October 2018, which had always been its intention.
Despite numerous offers to grow the company both in the UK and internationally, the group has made a conscious choice to focus growth on the North-West of England to enable it to provide exceptional quality, with the CEO just 30 minutes away from any nursery.
Last year, Kids Allowed opened two more settings in Altrincham and Trafford City, between them providing childcare for up to 300 more families and creating 80 jobs. This year it started a new campaign to recruit elder volunteers to share their wisdom, which is proving hugely popular with applicants.
And at the younger end of the spectrum, Kids Allowed has also started a summer work experience initiative, giving college and university students the chance to gain experience and earn extra income over the holidays.
On the environmental front, the nursery group is committed to removing single-use plastics by 2020. So far, it has stopped glitter completely and has switched to reusable ceramic cups and biodegradable nappy bags, nappies and wipes.
For 2019/20, it is focusing on embedding programmes it already runs, including mindfulness, expanding the volunteer schemes, and doubling the children supported with special educational needs and disabilities, which is currently just over 100 children.
Kids Allowed runs its own training academy, and the CEO was awarded an MBE for service to apprenticeships in 2016. Staff retention is high, with many progressing in their careers and working for the company 14 years after the first nursery opened.
On staff development, Jennie Johnson says, ‘We value all our colleagues, regardless of whether they are managing a centre or cutting the grass. Everybody at Kids Allowed is equally valued.’
“Very strong ethos… spreading impact into the community
HIGHLY COMMENDED Stramash Social Enterprise, Scotland
As a non-profit social enterprise providing four outdoor nurseries based in rural towns across Scotland, Stramash supports more than 300 families with their childcare, and works regularly with its local primary schools.
The judges were impressed by the way it is fulfilling its vision to inspire children's play and development outdoors. Parent testimonials highlight how each nursery maximises the use of its outdoor environment, supporting children to make connections with nature and find their place in the community. The fully sustainable social enterprise was also praised for the way it values its people, prioritising training and development, and on providing a family-friendly working environment.
Kids Planet, North-West
The Little Learners, South-East
Sleepy Hollow Group, Northern Ireland
South Hills School, South-West
Tiddlywinks Day Nursery, North-West
Open to UK nursery groups with three or more settings