Acorn Day Nursery

A Message from Lord Pickles and Lord Blunkett, followed by Acorn Day Nursery's best practice article

The ability to listen and learn from one another has always been vital in parliament, in business and in most aspects of daily life. But at this particular moment in time, as national and global events continue to reiterate, it is uncommonly crucial that we forge new channels of communication and reinforce existing ones. The following article from Acorn Day Nursery is an attempt to do just that. We would welcome your thoughts on this or any other Parliamentary Review article.

Blunkett signature Rt Hon The Lord David Blunkett
Pickles signature Rt Hon The Lord Eric Pickles

SarahFeasey, Managing Director
(left) with Sarah Johnson,
Nursery Manager
A left-hand view of
the nursery
Based in Croydon, Acorn Day Nursery were established in
2003 by Sarah Feasey, a former inspector of daycare for
children under eight. Alongside this daycare provision,
they also run out-of-school clubs. Operating out of Forestdale
Primary School, they have a strong working relationship with
the school’s management, which has allowed them to grow
and reach full capacity. Recently, they have invested heavily
in the expansion of their provision for children under three
years old. Sarah, the managing director, explains the evolution
of Acorn Day Nursery and the emphasis they place on hiring
I used to be an inspector of daycare for children under eight, before Ofsted
assumed responsibility. After this, I wanted to return to working with children.
In 2000, I left the security of a well-paid job and started my company, Southern
Childcare Facilities Ltd.
I opened my first nursery, Kenley Kindergarten, in 2001 and the second, Acorn
Nursery, in 2003. I had the first privately owned day nursery in the borough that
operated within a local authority school. Using government grants, I was also able
to open out-of-school clubs at the same time. This was only made possible by
the foresight and support of the headteachers involved. My company was leased
unused classrooms in which I could operate a day nursery. The out-of-school clubs
operated from the dining halls.
»Managing Director:
»Founded in 2003
»Based in Croydon
»Services: Daycare nursery and
out-of-school clubs
»No. of employees: 9
»No. of children: 40
»Ofsted: “Good”, Jan 2017
Acorn Day Nursery
Highlighting best practice
The headteachers and the governors
had a refreshing approach and always
did their best to remove any barriers. It
was an ideal situation for all involved.
Theschool directly received the rent
and jobs were being created. New
parents were being introduced to the
school, while their children became
familiar with a school environment.
I aimed to supply family daycare for
working parents. Both the out-of-
school clubs and the nursery open at
half past seven and close at six o’clock,
51 weeks of the year.
Hiring the right staff
Since opening in 2001, I have
experienced some difficult times,
including not having enough money
to pay myself and the shame of
a poor Ofsted rating. I realised I
needed help in the shape of strong
managers. It took me a long time
to employ good managers, but they
most certainly are the key to any
organisation’s culture and success.
Naturally, qualifications are important
and all of our nursery managers
have a degree in early childcare and
education. However, qualifications
mean little with the wrong attitude.
Due to the caring nature of working
with children, it’s difficult to find a
person who can successfully monitor
practice and enforce standards. So
difficult in fact that we had to cultivate
our own manager, who started as
The manager has responsibility for staff
selection and ensuring that our team
meet our values and expectations. I
recognize that our staff are crucial to
how we operate. As a small company,
we have been able to develop the
culture of a work family. Our practice
is to say yes whenever possible and
to be flexible. In return, we have a
team who are willing to go beyond
expectations and parents who feel that
we are approachable about a range
A transforming sector
The role of an early years practitioner
has changed a lot since 2001, and
there has been a much needed rise in
the calibre of practitioners. Earlyyears
practitioners no longer just play with
children. There are vast amounts of
paperwork attached to each child
with regard to monitoring their
individual progress and planning, as
Our garden at the rear
of the nursery
It took me a
long time to
employ good
managers, but
they most
certainly are
the key to any
culture and
well as written daily logs for young
children about what they have eaten
and how long they have slept. We
must also undertake overall tracking
of the progress of different groups
of children, such as children with an
additional language.
This work was greatly aided by the
purchase of electronic logs, which
can email information securely and
directly to the parents. Accident
forms are also sent this way, letting
parents know quickly about an
accident. This reduces paperwork,
as small children frequently have
Managers are called upon to attend
more safeguarding meetings when
children are thought to be at risk. We
also work with outside agencies to
implement behavioural strategies for
children finding it difficult to cope. This
requires a judgement on what is the
best approach to take with the family.
Managers must have the ability to
be professional but also to talk in an
honest and straightforward manner,
saying things that are difficult for a
parent to hear. This must be done
while working with parents to get the
best outcome they can for the child
and their family.
Childcare requires a high amount
of staff to operate. Recently, it has
been more difficult to recruit both
qualified and unqualified people. I
have had to refuse parents looking
for childcare, as I could not recruit
the staff needed. I strongly believe
that people should be paid a living
wage or better. Qualified staff should
be paid a good wage, and people
want to see these people working
with children as they help to shape
the future generation. The quality
of pre-school care has an impact on
children’s outcomes, particularly their
attitude to learning, social abilities
and self-esteem.
Full childcare is a business mostly
dependent on parents paying fees.
Families often look at whether it is
worth the mother returning to work,
as the vast majority of nursery fees
are taken from that wage: a wage
that often starts at a lower rate
than the father’s. This puts a cap, in
effect, on what childcare fees can
be, which in turn forces down the
wages of early years practitioners,
the majority of whom are female.
This affects the workforce. More
financial help for working parents,
paid directly to the childcare provider,
could help, perhaps encouraging
more parents back to work. This
would be particularly helpful for single
Recently, we have invested heavily in
expanding our under three-year-old
provision, with the support of the
school and local council. Together,
we provide learning and social
opportunities for children and support
to their families. I’m very grateful to
my managers and staff team for not
only caring for the children but also
caring about us as a company and the
children who attend.
Qualified staff
should be paid
a good wage,
and people
want to see
these people
working with
children as
they help to
shape the
Our reading corner

This article was sponsored by Acorn Day Nursery. The Parliamentary Review is wholly funded by the representatives who write for it. The publication in which this article originally appeared contained the following foreword from Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng.

Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng's Foreword For The Parliamentary Review

By Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng

This year’s Parliamentary Review reflects on a tumultuous and extraordinary year, globally and nationally. As well as being an MP, I am a keen student of history, and I am conscious that 2020 would mark the end of an era. It will be remembered as the year in which we concluded Brexit negotiations and finally left the European Union. Above all, it will be remembered as the year of Covid-19.

In our fight against the pandemic, I am delighted that our vaccination programme is beginning to turn the tide – and I pay tribute to the British businesses, scientists and all those who have helped us to achieve this. But the virus has dealt enormous damage, and we now have a duty to rebuild our economy.

We must ensure that businesses are protected. We have made more than £350 billion available to that end, with grants, business rates relief and our furlough scheme supporting more than 11 million people and jobs in every corner of the country, maintaining livelihoods while easing the pressure on employers. The next step is to work with business to build back better and greener, putting the net zero carbon challenge at the heart of our recovery. This is a complex undertaking, but one which I hope will be recognised as a once in a lifetime opportunity.

Through the prime minister’s ten point plan for a green industrial revolution, we can level up every region of the UK, supporting 250,000 green jobs while we accelerate our progress towards net zero carbon emissions.

With our commitment to raise R&D spending to 2.4% of GDP and the creation of the Advanced Research & Invention Agency, we are empowering our fantastic researchers to take on groundbreaking research, delivering funding with flexibility and speed. With this approach, innovators will be able to work with our traditional industrial heartlands to explore new technologies, and design and manufacture the products on which the future will be built – ready for export around the globe.

And I believe trade will flourish. We are a leading nation in the fight against climate change. As the host of COP26 this year, we have an incredible opportunity to market our low-carbon products and expertise. Our departure from the EU gives us the chance to be a champion of truly global free trade; we have already signed trade deals with more than 60 countries around the world.

As we turn the page and leave 2020 behind, I am excited about the new chapter which Britain is now writing for itself, and for the opportunities which lie ahead of us.
Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng
Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy