Alderley Day Nursery

A Message from Lord Pickles and Lord Blunkett, followed by Alderley 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 Alderley 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

In our vegetable patch,
children learn first-hand
about food production,
from earth to table
Nursery Manager and Montessori
teacher, Jenny Carr-Winterburn,
with owner, Melanie Hallam
All of us remember our own childhoods, spent mostly
outdoors with friends, freely exploring and discovering.
Childhood today is mostly spent indoors or within the
four corners of a screen, and is laden with adult expectations.
Alderley Day Nursery was founded in 2007, with an aim
to rebalance experiences for local children. From day one,
owner Melanie Hallam has aspired to run the nursery as a
values-based enterprise, driven by an ethos of freedom and
bold initiative, in the caring context of an old-fashioned
community. She tells the
that the most important factor
contributing to their success has been having the right system
of values.
In 2005, I was expecting my first baby, after spending 12 years building a career
in strategic business analysis. I wanted to mix impending motherhood with my
business experience, and the opportunity came along to develop a purpose-
built nursery on nearby farmland opposite a corporate headquarters. I started by
researching early years provision in the area.
My findings from local authority reports, questionnaires I handed out at various
mother-and-baby groups and my own visits to other settings all helped me to fine-
tune my business plan. I decided on Montessori as the most inspiring educational
philosophy, and complemented it with full, year-round day care to meet the needs
of other working parents. My guiding strategy was and still is to provide everything
our market could wish for – but those wishes are constantly changing.
»Owner: Melanie Hallam
»Manager: Jenny Carr-Winterburn
»Established in 2007
»Based in Nether Alderley,
»Services: Montessori pre-school
and year-round day care for
children aged 0 to 5 years
»No. of children: Over 100
»No. of teachers: 25 full-time
equivalent team members
»Ofsted: “Outstanding”,
»School pets include Brahma
chickens, fish, African snails
and neighbouring cows
»Accredited by the Montessori
Schools Association
Alderley Day Nursery
Highlighting best practice
Ever-changing business
My team and I continually reinvent our
business to overcome each change
and obstacle that arises. Paradoxically,
what has made such reinvention
possible is sticking to our founding
values. Indeed, they have guided us
through our growth and helped us to
make important decisions by showing
us where we won’t compromise and
how best to prioritise our actions.
Many challenges in recent years have
come about as a result of central and
local government intervention. The
EYFS framework, which was there as
a broad guide to child development
when I started the nursery, has
become increasingly granular in the
evidence it demands of children’s age-
To counteract this trend, we initially
responded with a comprehensive,
intercurricular guide that related
Montessori activities to EYFS learning
goals. More recently, we’ve adopted
an online system called My Montessori
Child, which generates the granular
insights we need while adhering to
Montessori principles. At our nursery,
we go beyond age-related progress
tracking by following each child’s
passions, nurturing their ability to
concentrate and giving them the
freedom to grow and learn in their
own personal way.
Other public policy challenges have
included the introduction of below-
cost hourly grants for “free” nursery
places with no top-up fees allowed,
the withdrawal of local early-years
courses, changes to teacher training
prerequisites (which have stopped
many good candidates from joining
the profession), the national living
wage, pension burdens on employee
costs and our business rates increasing
dramatically. We have been able
to cope with each of these only
by means of constant innovation,
bold new initiatives and the ability
of our cohesive team to adjust to
Keeping up with the market
Equally dramatic challenges have
come about in the marketplace,
reflecting economic trends affecting
the whole country. For example,
parents seek more places for babies
and toddlers, requiring us to redesign
the deployment of our space. Local
primaries, now forced to generate
income, compete with us for
preschoolers – our most profitable
segment because of statutory
After our corporate neighbour
relocated, their former site became
a mixed-use business and residential
park, meaning that we received far
more part-time enrolments rather
than steady full-day customers. As
a result, we’ve had to become not
just educators but marketers too,
devising campaigns and building new
relationships. Beneath all this we are
always careful to defer to our values,
tempering our promotional efforts
The Colour Tablets
grading activity refines
a child’s sensitivity to
different hues and
intensities of colour
challenges in
recent years
have come
about as a
result of
central and
with dignity and respect for both our
children and their families.
We are also seeing changing consumer
attitudes affect parent expectations.
Consumers today demand unlimited
transparency from all their vendors
– their nursery included. While some
parents trust us to look after their
family’s best interests, others seek
regular reassurances regarding their
child’s day-to-day experiences. Staff
are therefore trained to manage their
available time with parents, and to
respond individually to each parent’s
communication needs.
Since young children are now under
pressure to meet age-related goals,
virtually all modern parents look
for above-average results. In line
with Montessori principles, we aim
instead to nurture a child’s love of
learning in whatever direction he or
she is inclined. Our progress reports
to parents focus on the processes of
learning, rather than on checklists
and outcomes. We are careful to
avoid communicating comparative
or quantitative assessments, and
instead look for individual growth and
personal bests, as well as emerging
areas of activity to nurture.
This more sensitive approach to
early years is clearly working for our
families, with many of our follow-on
schools praising the confidence and
independence that characterises our
Montessori children.
Protecting time with children
Challenges and changes threaten
to take teachers’ time away from
the children. To maximise contact
time while meeting our statutory
reporting obligations, we have
embraced advanced technology for
use by teachers and parents. Our My
Montessori Child online education
management system transforms our
efficiency at record-keeping and puts
detailed information on EYFS progress
at our fingertips. At the same time, it
helps us to stay faithful to our values
of child-led education and respect for
each child’s individuality.
Used at non-Montessori nurseries
as My Nursery Child, this unique
activity-centred system is, like us, a
values-based enterprise, supporting
child-led learning without pressurising
children or their parents. It generates
an in-depth, individualised website for
each child that parents view regularly
at home, providing them with non-
judgmental insights into their child’s
current interests, and suggesting
activities at home that reinforce their
child’s recent learning at school.
I believe what has mattered most
throughout our success is our
adherence to a strong set of values,
and our reliance on those values as we
adapt over time to change. Teachers
who feel that positive values are
driving the organisation will thrive
there. Visiting parents who sense the
presence of values will trust us to
look after their child. Children who
are exposed to nurturing values will
absorb and live them. As a business,
we also need values to guide our
decision-making, from day-to-day
choices through to big strategic
transformations, ensuring that we’re
always ready to face new challenges. A teacher uses the
My Montessori Child
system to record a
child’s progress with the
“number rods” activity
I believe what
has mattered
most throughout
our success is our
adherence to a
strong set of
values, and our
reliance on those
values as we
adapt over time
to change

This article was sponsored by Alderley 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