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The New Years Honours List saw Kala Patel, managing director of Kiddycare Nurseries awarded an OBE for services to childcare and Kim Arrowsmith, manager of Matchbox Day Nursery, awarded an MBE for services to children and families.
Back in 1984, Kala Patel, a 22-year-old mother unable to return to work due to a lack of childcare, set about establishing the first ever day nursery in Belgrave - a densely populated area of deprivation in Leicester.
Her first business achievement was all the more remarkable as it came about just six years after she arrived in the country from Kenya.
With just a bank loan and the Enterprise Allowance of £65 a week behind her, she converted unused office space into a 15-place nursery. Within days, it was full and she had a growing waiting list. Just months later, Kala went on to move her first nursery into much larger, better equipped premises. Since then, Kiddycare has grown to five settings, providing childcare for under-fives and after-school and holiday care for older children.
Ms Patel said: “I never expected to be awarded an OBE. It is really wonderful to be recognised for all the work I’ve done over the years with the children. This honour is about that commitment and I’m blown away by it. But I have to say, none of this could have happened without the support of my tremendously dedicated team, who always give their all.”
All her senior managers have been with Kiddycare for over 20 years and 50 per cent of her staff have been with the company for over 10 years. She has focused on areas of deprivation, supporting struggling families, particularly those with children with special needs. At the same time, she has worked to raise standards regionally, pioneering professional training at a time when childcare was severely under-valued.
In 2004, Kala Patel was invited to Downing Street to meet the then Prime Minister, Tony Blair, and in 2013 was also invited to Buckingham Palace as a result of her success in the Asian Women of Achievement Awards.
Nursery manager Kim Arrowsmith also received an MBE in the New Years Honours List.
Manager of Matchbox Day Nursery in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets, Kim Arrowsmith was awarded an MBE for services to children and families.
She began her career in childcare in 1988 after helping out at her children’s playgroup. She set up Matchbox Day Nursery, a registered charity, as part of the Neighbourhood Nursery Initiative in 2003.
Ms Arrowsmith said: “We have a playgroup which runs alongside the nursery a couple of crèches’ which support the courses in the community centre.
“The team here is fantastic and most of our staff have been here since we opened. This award is a team effort.
“I was really surprised when I found out about the MBE. I am hoping the weather is better by the time I go to the Palace so I can wear a nice frock.”
Purnima Tanuku, chief executive of National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA) said: “We are delighted and very proud that our member nursery managers have been recognised in this way.”