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One of the nursery sector’s leading providers, Bright Horizons Family Solutions has doubled its size in the last 18 months and now runs no fewer than 207 nurseries in the UK and Ireland. This expansion is due in part to strategic acquisitions, most recently the kidsunlimited group.
At the helm throughout this period of rapid growth is chief executive Carole Edmond who comments: “The most important element of the growth is that we have continued to acquire like-minded organisations who have well located nurseries with passionate managers and staff who are deeply committed to giving every individual child a wonderful experience and the best start in life.”
She adds: “It has been an extremely challenging regulatory environment during this period and I continue to be impressed with the determination of our teams and their ability to be agile and learn quickly when the external environment is changing rapidly.
“We have done a lot of work on how we evidence our continuously improving approach to safety, safeguarding, teaching and learning to meet the significantly raised regulatory bar. I am hugely grateful to all our teams for rising to the challenge.”
New nurseries and awards
Highlights of this busy period include nursery openings and prestigious awards. Ms Edmond says: “During the past 18 months we have partnered with more employer clients, opened brand new nurseries in Wimbledon and Fulbourn and have more in the pipeline to open this year including an innovative new nursery opening in Clapham that will provide a wonderfully rich environment for children as well as providing a wide range of services for busy working parents. “We were delighted to receive external accolades from the Great Place to Work Institute (naming us as a Best Workplace for the 8th year), a RoSPA (Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents) Gold Award for Health and Safety and Occupational Health for the third successive year, and receiving the Education Business of the Year Award.“
One of the most successful recent Bright Horizons initiatives is a safety superhero called Candy Floss, who was created by the staff and children in one of the nurseries. Ms Edmond says: “Candy Floss is part of our commitment to building a culture of safety and proactive risk management with both our staff and children. Candy Floss has been developed as a pedagogical resource to teach children about the importance of keeping themselves and others safe.
“Since his introduction, Candy Floss has proved to be a dynamic and engaging resource – one that is helping children to grow as risk-aware and confident explorers while they play and learn.”
This creative approach to health and safety has been so successful that Candy Floss has been highlighted in a number Bright Horizons Good and Outstanding Ofsted reports. “Inspectors have been impressed by the innovative ways that the teaching resource has been used to help children to understand health and safety, and also to take greater responsibility for managing both their own safety, and that of others,” says Ms Edmond.
The Early Years sector continues to be the subject of much debate as to minimum qualifications required and what type of education should be offered. “As an organisation, we continue to focus on and invest in our staff through the Bright Horizons Institute of Learning and Development (BHILD) and our increase in level 3 qualifications, which has risen from 59 per cent in 2011 to 75 per cent in 2013. We are also proud to be supporting the ‘Trailblazers’ initiative and opening up career opportunities for graduates, providing practice placements in our nurseries and children’s centres and leading effective pedagogy in daycare settings,” says Ms Edmond.
“There are no acceptable shortcuts when it comes to the safety and security of the children we care for and our staff teams. We have invested in a strong culture of ‘Keeping Everyone Safe’ and everyone, at every level, is clear that they have a responsibility to themselves, the children and the company regarding behavioural safety. We continue to evaluate our performance using employee and parent feedback surveys and we are never complacent; always looking at ways we can develop our approach to teaching and learning.
The future for Bright Horizons, according to Ms Edmond, does indeed look more than promising: “We have been fortunate to join forces with many like-minded organisations over time and this has brought great talent and presence to our organisation.
“We are passionate about creating the best environments possible for all children and believe the best way of achieving this is through working in partnership with the major provider group, government and industry bodies.
“We continue to invest in training, development, facilities and our early years understanding to grow the quality of teaching, learning and care which the children we look after experience. The parents that use our nurseries believe we offer value for money - childcare is not a commodity which can be piled high and sold cheaply, it is an investment in the future of our most valuable resource - children.”