Bella Bambinos After School

A Message from Lord Pickles and Lord Blunkett, followed by Bella Bambinos After School'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 Bella Bambinos After School 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

Founder and Owner Julie Edens
Our after-school club
Bella Bambinos is a small family-run day nursery situated in
Dromore, County Down, in Northern Ireland. Julie Edens,
the Director, and her family opened Bella Bambinos in
mid-2009. She did this after working in, and using, day nurseries
for over ten years and seeing first hand how difficult it was for
parents to find quality childcare. Her first objective was to create
an environment that had the appearance and feel of a family
home, which was the driving factor for opening the nursery in
their former family home. This ethos has been the guiding star of
the company ever since, which is something Julie expands upon.
Often, children spend more of their waking time at nursery than at home, so my ethos
is making sure children are settled, content and feel at home. This was in contrast
to what I saw in the broader sector, which in my area was dominated by portable
buildings used as a cheap way of gaining more space. It was clear that these places
were not sufficiently investing into the buildings or equipment for the good of the
children. I believed that by investing, and then continually reinvesting, more than other
nurseries, I could rewrite the childcare handbook by creating a unique child-led, homely
nursery – a brave decision to take in 2008/09 at the height of the financial crisis.
I also believe that, to reach their full potential, every child should be treated as
an individual, feel loved and cared for and feel a strong sense of belonging. We
continually liaise with parents to ensure that each of our children’s routines and
preferences are monitored and evolve (as they inevitably do as they grow).
»Founder and Owner: Julie Edens
»Established in 2009
»Based in County Down,
Northern Ireland
»Services: Daycare, preschool
and after-school care for
»No. of employees: 30
»Winner of Day Nursery of the
Year, After-School Club of the
Year, Nursery Assistant of the
Year and Childcarer of the
»Outstanding Achievement in
Childcare Award
»Northern Ireland’s highest-
rated day nursery (four times)
Bella Bambinos Day Nursery
and After-School Club
Highlighting best practice
I lead a team of 30 and understand
that it is this which, without doubt,
comprises our most valuable asset.
For this reason, I head the recruitment
personally, as some things just can’t
be delegated if one’s vision is to be
maintained. With every member of
the team, I ensure I have a personal
relationship, as I understand that the
happiness of the team is the key to the
happiness of the children.
Costs are continually rising in the
childcare sector, and the financial
challenges for both businesses and
parents who need to use childcare
are strongly linked. Specifically, labour
costs have risen dramatically over the
past few years with rises in the Living
Wage. Labour costs can represent as
much as 80 per cent of a nursery’s
outgoings; therefore, rises in labour
rates and auto-enrolment pensions
cannot be absorbed by the business,
which is a cost inevitably passed on
to working parents. As childcare costs
rise, more of our parents are telling
us that they are working to only pay
childcare and are finding it harder to
justify staying in work.
Over the past few years, we have seen
that there are fewer people entering
the sector than there are leaving it. The
staff pool in our industry is dominated
by female workers who are in their
twenties and thirties, so are at an age
where they tend to marry and have
children. Our greatest challenge in
maintaining a staff team is the system
of Working Tax Credit. We have found
that, after having a child, it is more
financially viable to reduce from full-
time to part-time work, because the
tax credits cover the balance in the loss
of wages. In our experience, four out
of five workers do not return to their
normal working hours following their
maternity leave; the norm is to reduce
from full time to a two-day working
week. To ensure quality of care, it is
essential that this is addressed as a
matter of policy.
Our senior after-school
To reach their
full potential,
every child
should be
treated as an
individual, feel
loved and
cared for and
feel a strong
sense of
Into the future
The care of our children in their early
years must be at the very centre of
our attention, and the role of those
in the childcare sector cannot be
overestimated. It is quite common
for a day nursery to care for a child
for 40 to 50 hours of their waking
week, which is often more time
than our busy working parents. Our
influence on a child’s development
cannot be overstated and, for this
reason, achieving the highest quality of
It is my opinion that policymakers over
the years have failed to understand the
importance of the childcare sector with
specific regard to a child’s early years.
I understand that the government
have increased the time allocated for
free pre-school care, but by the time
a child gets to their pre-school year,
they may have spent four years in
a nursery setting, meaning they are
already well on their way down their
developmental path.
To give an example: at Bella Bambinos
we have 30 children under the age of
two, and at any one time we may have
up to 15 below the age of 12 months
old, yet there are no visits from health
visitors or workers to provide check-
ups on every child. Although we have
a link health visitor who visits twice
yearly, I feel further funding should be
designated for more frequent visits to
daycare settings. Generally, our babies
spend their week in day nurseries and
are at home at the weekends – so
when are they periodically seen by
health professionals to check their
physical and mental well-being? More
regular social care at this stage of a
child’s life could reap benefits into
adulthood and therefore alleviate strain
on social care resources in future years.
As the years pass, I have noticed
that changing legislation has created
the situation where new nurseries
are moving toward extremely large,
purpose-built settings that more
resemble schools rather than what a
loving, comforting environment should
be. In my opinion, nurseries should
be discouraged from developing
large sterile buildings and from using
mobile classrooms, but instead should
be encouraged to develop homely
environments in which our young ones
feel nurtured and safe.
In my opinion,
nurseries should
be discouraged
from developing
large sterile
buildings and
from using
Some of our awards
Our after-school play

This article was sponsored by Bella Bambinos After School. 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 The Rt Hon Theresa May MP.

The Rt Hon Theresa May MP's Foreword For The Parliamentary Review

By The Rt Hon Theresa May MP

This foreword from the then Prime Minister appeared in the 2018/19 Parliamentary Review.

British politics provides ample material for analysis in the pages of The Parliamentary Review. For Her Majesty’s Government, our task in the year ahead is clear: to achieve the best Brexit deal for Britain and to carry on our work to build a more prosperous and united country – one that truly works for everyone. 

The right Brexit deal will not be sufficient on its own to secure a more prosperous future for Britain. We also need to ensure that our economy is ready for what tomorrow will bring. Our Modern Industrial Strategy is our plan to do that. It means Government stepping up to secure the foundations of our productivity: providing an education system that delivers the skills our economy needs, improving school standards and transforming technical education; delivering infrastructure for growth; ensuring people have the homes they need in the places they want to live. It is all about taking action for the long-term that will pay dividends in the future.

But it also goes beyond that. Government, the private sector and academia working together as strategic partners achieve far more than we could separately. That is why we have set an ambitious goal of lifting UK public and private research and development investment to 2.4 per cent of GDP by 2027. It is why we are developing four Grand Challenges, the big drivers of social and economic change in the world today: harnessing artificial intelligence and the data revolution; leading in changes to the future of mobility; meeting the challenges of our ageing society; and driving ahead the revolution in clean growth. By focusing our efforts on making the most of these areas of enormous potential, we can develop new exports, grow new industries and create more good jobs in every part of our country.

Years of hard work and sacrifice from the British people have got our deficit down by over three quarters. We are building on this success by taking a balanced approach to public spending. We are continuing to deal with our debts, so that our economy can remain strong and we can protect people’s jobs, and at the same time we are investing in vital public services, like our NHS. We have set out plans to increase NHS funding annually by an average by 3.4 percent in real terms: that is £394 million a week more. In return, the NHS will produce a ten-year plan, led by doctors and nurses, to eliminate waste and improve patient care.

I believe that Britain can look to the future with confidence. We are leaving the EU and setting a new course for prosperity as a global trading nation. We have a Modern Industrial Strategy that is strengthening the foundations of our economy and helping us to seize the opportunities of the future. We are investing in the public services we all rely on and helping them to grow and improve. Building on our country’s great strengths – our world-class universities and researchers, our excellent services sector, our cutting edge manufacturers, our vibrant creative industries, our dedicated public servants – we can look towards a new decade that is ripe with possibility. The government I lead is doing all it can to make that brighter future a reality for everyone in our country. 

British politics provides ample material for analysis in the pages of The Parliamentary Review 
The Rt Hon Theresa May MP
Prime Minister