31 May 2018, Meredith Jones Russell
The nursery in Carlisle has sold a franchise to Dana and Richard Lu, who previously ran a lighting business in London, and split their time between Surrey and Guangzhou.
The new nursery, which opened last week on the third floor of the Guangzhou Opera House, will offer the EYFS to up to 100 children living in the city.
David and Jenn Farrell founded the 182-place Stone Eden Nursery School in Carlisle in 2005.
Their daughter Hannah Farrell, franchise director for the company, said, ‘We never wanted to rule out international expansion and ironically that is really where the demand for the EYFS is. By chance, China was our first enquiry and our first sale.’
The nursery currently employs three English and three Chinese members of staff, but will increase its numbers as more children enrol, in line with Ofsted ratios.
English will be the main language used, with Chinese staff providing some translation and support for children who do not have English as their first language.
As part of her trip to China to support with setting up the nursery, Ms Farrell met with a representative from the Department for International Trade (DIT).
‘She was very complimentary of the progress we have made and the speed at which we have set up in China,’ Ms Farrell said.
‘She informed me that many larger corporations who are interested in developing the EYFS curriculum in Asia are operating much slower than us. For a relatively small family business up in little old Carlisle, I think that’s something to be very proud of, as a family but also as a city.’
The nursery will be marketed largely at British expats, but Ms Farrell is hopeful that local residents will also be interested.
‘A lot of the local families have questions as the concept is very new, but we are proud to bring it to the community here, excited to be on the forefront of the sector moving to China, and we hope more Chinese families will take it on.’
Stone Eden staff will visit Guangzhou twice a year to check on progress, and plan to sign the Chinese owners as master franchisees so they can develop the brand further in China.
In the meantime, Stone Eden will focus on establishing a second franchise, either in the UK or abroad.
Interest in expansion into China has been growing in the UK early years sector.
In February, the UK’s largest childcare provider Busy Bees announced it would be opening 32 nurseries in China over the next five years.
And last October, a delegation of nursery owners and experts accompanied representatives from the Department for International Trade (DIT) on the first early years education trade mission to China.