Apple Tree Day Nursery

A Message from Lord Pickles and Lord Blunkett, followed by Apple Tree 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 Apple Tree 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


Head of Nursery and Director
Lesley Thompson
Fostering a love for the
outside space
Founded in 2002, Apple Tree Day Nursery is a private
nursery providing care and education for children
aged three months to five years. With two locations in
Northamptonshire, Apple Tree is a nursery rated “outstanding”
by Ofsted that has a small and homely feel, while the staff have
all been chosen for their caring dispositions and their ability to
provide quality education. Head of Nursery Lesley Thompson
and Head of Finance Rick Thompson expand.
What have you done to make a difference for the children today? This is the
message on the staffroom door to remind staff members of the responsibility we
have towards the children in our care. Everyone employed by Apple Tree knows
and understands our core vision of security, love, caring and kindness towards
others. This vision formed the foundations of the business.
We both have a background in childcare in various forms over the years and we
wanted to incorporate all the knowledge we had developed into a setting where
children are valued and respected as individuals. We opened a second nursery
in 2006, and we became recognised for our excellent practice, with our children
noted as high achievers. We hold “outstanding” grades at both nurseries and we
have been working as part of the Mentoring Partnership for Northamptonshire
County Council, offering advice and support to settings to enable them to raise
their standards and gradings. Between 2011 and 2017, we also supplied a pre-
school and out-of-hours provision for the local town school, which was also
awarded an “outstanding” grading.
»Head of Nursery and Director:
Lesley Thompson
»Head of Finance and Director:
Rick Thompson
»Established in 2002
»Location in Burton Latimer and
Kettering, Northamptonshire
»No. of children: 140
»No. of staff: 24
»Ofsted: “Outstanding”
»Aim: To provide quality care
and education aged 3 months
to 5 years
Apple Tree Day
Highlighting best practice
Quality of teaching, learning
and assessment
The children are encouraged to
form strong attachments to key
staff from induction. The carefully
carried-out settling-in sessions form
the relationship between the parent,
carer and the child’s key person, and
children are able to access as many
settling-in sessions as they require.
Information is shared at this important
time, which forms the basis for the
ongoing sharing of information and
assessment, which has a vital impact
on the child’s learning.
Highly qualified, motivated and
experienced staff provide quality
learning opportunities for all children.
Expectations are high, and children are
encouraged to explore, take risks and
expand on their own ideas. All children
are involved in the everyday planning,
with the older children holding
a forum each week where their
contributions are listened to, valued
and incorporated. Our nurseries work
to the early years foundation guidelines
and support children towards the early
learning goals. Written progress checks
are carried out for all two-year-olds
and the reports inform the integrated
review alongside the health visitor
Inclusion and diversity
Evidence gathered from observations
and assessments highlights gaps in
children’s attainment, particularly
when supporting children with
English as an additional language or
special educational needs. Parents
are involved with every aspect of the
child’s progress. If needs are identified,
parents are supported by the nursery
during the initial difficult conversations
and referrals. Children with English as
an additional language and children
who are disadvantaged are carefully
monitored to ensure they are making
good progress. The nursery uses a
translation app to help children feel
safe and secure, particularly during
settling-in sessions. Children whose
development exceeds the level that
is typical for their age are presented
with challenges to further extend their
learning and progression.
The staff team
The staff team across both nurseries is
valued as the most important resource
within the nursery. The management
are aware of the importance of
the personal development of the
staff team and the positive impact
it brings to the settings and the
children’s outcomes. Ongoing
training opportunities form part of
the nursery ethos. Robust policies and
procedures are in place to ensure safer
recruitment of staff, who are carefully
chosen for their caring dispositions
and commitment to our core vision.
Every member of staff adheres to our
safeguarding policies and holds a
paediatric first aid certificate. Parents
have commented on the peace of
mind this gives them when leaving
their little ones in our care.
Exploring textures and
natural materials
are high and
children are
encouraged to
explore, take
risks and
expand on
their own
Partnership with parents
The views of parents and carers are
respected and valued. Parents are
encouraged to come into nursery to
work alongside staff, providing new
opportunities for learning. One of our
parents is a musician and comes into
each nursery for an hour a week. He
brings a selection of instruments for
the children to play and they are able
to sing into an amplified microphone.
Opportunities are available for parent
or carer discussions, with the nurseries
operating an open-door policy.
Parents are able to view nursery
experiences on our secure media
site and can add their own posts,
comments and photographs subject
to approval, which has enabled
parents to feel included in the nursery
routine. Questionnaires are also
linked to the site for parents/carers to
make comments and suggestions for
Challenges for the future
As a small private business there are
many daily challenges. Initially there
were no grants or financial support
available to help set up the nurseries
and many financial risks were taken in
the early years. We have always strived
for excellence and quality, but this
has become more difficult to provide
as pressures have increased year by
year in terms of changing standards
and legislation and the never-
With the closure of the children’s
centres, the nurseries have taken on
a more supportive and advisory role
and we are able to signpost to other
professional services and agencies.
Sometimes, however, parents and
carers just need someone to listen.
There are still many challenges
ahead. The minimum living wage
and workplace pensions together
with increased business rates and the
extended 30 hours entitlement have
had a huge impact on our budget, and
private nurseries everywhere are going
through tough times.
Reflective practice and the collating
of evidence help to achieve the
quality needed in order for our
children to progress and achieve. The
continuous monitoring process to
evaluate the practice contributes to
a culture in which staff are striving
for excellence with outstanding care
The support and mentoring of staff
and their personal development mean
that the nurseries are always moving
and always progressing, which has
an impact on children’s outcomes.
A welcoming environment together
with an experienced, enthusiastic staff
team ensure the children experience
the joy of learning and have the
foundations in place for their future
The nurseries
are always
moving and
which has an
impact on
Showing love and
respect at an early age


This article was sponsored by Apple Tree 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