Red Bus Nursery & Pre-school

A Message from Lord Pickles and Lord Blunkett, followed by Red Bus Nursery & Pre-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 Red Bus Nursery & Pre-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

Highlighting best practice
Director Liz Hogarth
A positive environment
to thrive
In 2011, Liz Hogarth worked as a client director for an
outsourcing company. She had a young daughter – but simply
wasn’t satisfied with the quality of childcare in the Bristol area.
After taking things into her own hands, she set about creating
a fantastic nursery not just for the children but also staff. She
The Parliamentary Review
more about Red Bus Nursery &
Pre-School, and how she’s trying to change the perception of
childcare in her area.
If you want happy children in a nursery environment, you need to have a
passionate, dedicated team delivering childcare. It’s as simple as that for us.
When we first started Red Bus, there were many smaller nurseries in the local area.
We wanted to create a larger, more exciting environment that could still provide
the feel of a nurturing “home away from home”. We had to leverage our passion
for quality childcare with business acumen by reinvesting to create something that
was commercially viable; without that decision, such a project simply wouldn’t
come to fruition.
Seven years on
We first registered 107 children per day in Coombe Dingle, a suburb of Bristol,
where we had the perfect environment. We identified a trajectory for the nursery
while sticking true to our core principles – keeping everything fantastic for children
and staff alike. Now, everything’s come together; the project has evolved, I’ve built
an amazing, experienced team around me, opened a second nursery in Downend
for 116 children in 2015 and now have 136 children at our Coombe Dingle setting.
»Director: Liz Hogarth
»Established in 2011
»Based in Bristol
»Services: Childcare for children
from 3 months to 5 years old
»No. of employees: 110
»Ofsted: “Outstanding” at both
Red Bus sites
Red Bus Nursery &
A big focus along the way has been
growing from within to develop a
robust leadership and management
team – we’ve invested in people,
trained them and provided career
opportunities. Historically, the childcare
sector has not had the best reputation
for developing its people, and we
wanted to change that.
As a result, we now proudly offer
leadership and management training,
an enhanced benefits package and a
variety of other engagement elements,
including staff wellbeing programmes
– something I personally feel
passionate about. Investment in staff is
a key factor for continued success, and
we want to provide the best possible
environment for our team.
Engaging everybody
In 2015, we expanded and opened a
new site in Downend, and we have
set about broadening what we offer
across both sites. We do a lot of work
outside the setting, including our forest
school provision, which has proven to
be very rewarding. Throughout this
journey, we have brought parents
with us, too; we established the
“Daring Dads and Marvellous Mums”
programme to show parents the value
of adventure.
Our technology has also developed
to cope with increased intake at
both sites. In 2014, we began using
software to manage our back office
while providing a front-end in each
classroom capturing and tracking the
progress of each child. This means
we perfectly understand how to take
the right next step, share appropriate
data with parents and identify trends
to mould our processes. Continuous
improvement simply is a must in the
modern world – and we recognise the
role technology plays in that process.
It helps to support us as we maintain
locally recognised quality standards.
After massive development at our
Downend and Coombe Dingle settings,
Ofsted graded both as “outstanding”
in 2017 and 2018 respectively.
Making things work
A lack of familiarity with the market
was a real challenge when I first set
about establishing Red Bus. Without
research and help from experienced
people in the sector, it would have
been an impossible undertaking.
Finance and funding have always
been real obstacles. I can understand
why business people turn away from
childcare – large sites with parking and
a lot of outside space are hard to find
and even harder to buy. Just obtaining
planning permission is an incredibly
costly process, and one which honestly
feels like a fight just to achieve what
local people want.
Additionally, we find it beyond
frustrating that nurseries can’t claim VAT
back; when we started our Downend
site, which was a £1.5 million project,
we simply just had to accept that we
would have to bear 20 per cent of that
cost – funds which could have been put
towards developing another well-needed
setting. Everyday increases in other VAT
costs and business rates are significant
issues, too. Finally, the controversial
roll-out of the 30 hours funding brought
Outdoor play – simply
the best
Investing in
training and
upskilling is
not cheap, but
we’re entirely
unwilling to
on quality
Highlighting best practice
with it its own challenges – the biggest
of which has been the “standard” rate
that our local authority pay, regardless
of size orquality.
Variations in rate are hard to swallow
too. Our Downend setting sits within
metres of another local authority and
receives significantly less funding,
despite consistently serving families
from both local authorities. We have to
constantly and delicately balance our
costs and parents’ fees. More and more
is expected of nurseries, yet there’s
never sufficient funding and limited
government intervention. It’s just not
sustainable. If the government wants us
to create more childcare places to boost
the economy, where’s the support?
New staff concerns
A big part of achieving “outstanding”
status at both sites has been our team.
Ofsted even remarked that they didn’t
know how we’d put together such a
dedicated and passionate team in a
sector that’s been consistently plagued
by recruitment issues. In 2011, when
I began recruiting for our Coombe
Dingle site, I had a flood of qualified
applicants. Since then, however, things
have changed significantly.
More and more people are leaving the
sector and pursuing other career paths;
the quality of students we have taken
from the colleges has been so bad that
we have stopped accepting them on
placements. We’ve had to recruit far
more proactively, across all age ranges,
which in itself brings challenges with
such severe increases in the national
living wage and minimum wage. We
have taken control of this ourselves
and now mostly grow from within.
Investing in training and upskilling is
not cheap, but we’re entirely unwilling
to compromise on quality.
People need to start viewing childcare
as a viable and valuable career path –
and the right infrastructure will have to
be put into place, at both a local and
national level, to support that.
Excellence at a third site
We’re looking at opening a third
setting in 2019 and, at some point, our
own training facility. We have to foster
excellence in local young people if we
are going to continue expanding while
still offering the level of service we’ve
become renowned for.
No matter what the future holds, we
will continue to work hard, strive for
excellence, improve across the board
and, without compromise, help to
create jobs of choice.
We have to
excellence in
local young
people if we
are going to
while still
offering the
level of service
we’ve become
renowned for
Great staff are the heart
of Red Bus

This article was sponsored by Red Bus Nursery & Pre-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