Nursery World Awards 2020 - Nursery Manager of the Year

Friday, February 5, 2021

Karen Potter, Wind in the Willows, Portsmouth

Karen goes above and beyond to ensure that every child and their family, as well as her staff, have the support they require. No task is ever beneath her – one minute she might be answering the phone or emails, conducting a parent visit or planning a staff meeting, and the next you might find her changing a nappy, preparing lunches or cleaning.

As co-owner, director and nursery manager, Karen makes it a priority to get to know every one of the 100 children and families at the setting. Off the top of her head, she could tell you what days and hours each child attends, which lunches they have, and any additional needs.

With her staff, Karen is flexible, fair and ensures hard work never goes unnoticed, offering words of praise and support, and always taking the time for a friendly chat.

She is also the setting’s designated safeguarding officer, a role she puts at the heart of her work, ensuring every child, family and member of staff is healthy and safe.

Having taught childcare qualifications in local colleges, Karen now provides bespoke training for staff, enhancing their professional development and ensuring all children receive high-quality care and education.

Karen takes prospective parents on ‘Learning Walks’ through the setting, showing off her nursery and confidently answering any questions, putting parents at ease with her caring nature and professional attitude.

The children adore her and often ask to show her something they have made or done. She ensures every interaction she has with them is beneficial to the child in some way, and she listens to them intently, responding appropriately and thus role-modelling good practice to staff.

Every year, Karen visits the Gambia, where she lives and works within the local school and community in a number of roles, including helping to deliver babies in the maternity clinic, working in the school teaching children and providing training for staff, educating local people about the dangers of FGM, and helping to build classrooms and playgrounds.

On her return, she brings stories to share with the children which help them develop an understanding of the wider world and appreciation of what they have.


Kath Dickinson, SEND to Learn

Kath is fully immersed in all aspects of her specialist nursery, which aims to be fully inclusive and provide education and care for all children, especially those who have been unable to find suitable provision.

She believes all children deserve the very best start in life, and works hard to put this into practice by introducing any adaptations, one-to-one support or staff training required.

She has established a parent support programme called ‘Hand in Hand’ which runs monthly sessions featuring discussions and individual support programmes, including help with EHCPs and Disability Living Allowance applications.

Kath changes nappies, wipes noses and can often be found covered in messy play, being dressed up in costumes or making snacks.

More than just a manager, she takes on the role of caretaker, cleaner, decorator, builder and anything else the nursery requires.


Danielle Riley, Woodlands Day Nursery

Deana Hunt, Brock House Day Nursery

Eleanor Hutton, Explorisity Education

Melanie Shepherd, Muddy Boots Nursery

Sophia Covill, Meadow Lane Children’s Nursery


Open to any nursery manager in a full daycare or sessional setting

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