Nursery World Awards 2021 - Outstanding Contribution

Sunday, September 26, 2021

Julie Lister, Portland House, Huddersfield

You can download the digital Awards book here

During her 26-year career at Portland Nurseries, Julie has touched the lives of thousands of children and their families.

In her 20 years as nursery manager, her affable nature, clear insight and guiding vision has garnered the respect and admiration of staff, children, families and the local community.

Her role has recently been expanded to include responsibility for three further settings as senior manager, supporting more than 90 staff and 600 families each year.

She spends time across the four sites, observing and modelling practice and inducting and training new staff. She has led her nursery to three consecutive Outstanding inspection results, and has helped the other three settings she oversees to achieve an Outstanding rating too.

Her enthusiasm and creativity inspire children every day, making learning fun and broadening knowledge and inclusivity. She organises P.L.A.Y (Portland Learning And You) workshops for parents to support them with topics including home learning and first aid.

Julie’s work with children with SEND has helped hundreds of families and identified needs early with respect, care and professionalism and with inclusion at the heart of all decisions.

Safeguarding is also a priority for Julie, and she works continually to ensure children are provided with an environment where they value and respect different cultures, religions, languages and needs, and ensures resources and activities reflect these.

Her dedication to fundraising has seen Portland House raise over £20,000 for charity in the last five years alone, from sponsored walks to ‘Children’s Olympics’.

Under Julie’s management, Portland House has strengthened bonds with local care homes, with regular visits and, during the pandemic, by sending children’s artwork to residents and organising online singing sessions together.

Her honesty and considerate nature make her a natural and inspirational leader to whom other practitioners can turn to for advice in any situation.

Both her children attended Portland Nurseries, and her daughter is now training for her Level 3 Early Years qualification with the group.

There can be very few practitioners who have gone about their roles so selflessly and enthusiastically for so long.


Nina Stones, Nina’s Nurseries, Stockport

Nina’s eight settings have become inclusive, diverse, homely places to be for staff, children and parents under her leadership.

She employs many young people through apprenticeships, championing young people who have just left care in particular. She helps young people into employment by making links with local colleges and schools to enable them to complete placements, and has made links with Manchester Metropolitan University to support undergraduates in their placement work within the early years sector.

Nina has also made inclusiveness and diversity a priority for her nurseries. She has encouraged managers to review reading material in settings to ensure better representation of diverse families.

She is keen to make sure her staff always feel supported, and with that in mind has ensured her head office is operated by people with early years experience, and one member of staff is trained in helping team members with their mental health and well-being.


Alison O’Connor-Limb, Village Nursery Group, Manchester


For an ‘unsung hero’ – an early years practitioner whose long service and dedication in day-to-day work with young children are truly inspiring.

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