“The Willows Day Nursery prides itself on being a company that nurtures its staff and utilises their talents for the good of everyone.”
Category: Small to Medium Employer of the Year
Established in 2015 by owner Hayley Carver, The Willows Day Nursery offers full day care for children aged between three months and five years in a safe and secure learning environment.
The setting has a ‘grow your own’ ethos across its three sites with 28 apprentices completing training since the business started.
Hayley has a clear understanding of the benefits that training can bring via apprenticeships and for the last eight years, she has put into plan a learning and development strategy with national training provider and specialist in Early Years education, Connect2Care (C2C).
By offering staff support and opportunities to progress in their careers, the setting is able to draw on their team’s unique skills and experiences to supplement their curriculum and successfully build a team of leaders with well-rounded skills, capable of working with all age groups.
Hayley’s drive to enable her staff to achieve comes from the heart.
“When I first started my own business eight years ago, I knew from personal experience how important great Early Years childcare is,” said Hayley. “I had my first baby at 17, a month before sitting my A-levels, and relied on day nurseries to allow me to work and progress. After helping out at my son’s nursery as bank staff, I discovered that I loved working with children and did a L3 Early Years and Childcare qualification followed by a Foundation Degree in Early Years and Education.
“I worked my way up the ladder and now I own the nursery my son used to attend!
“For me, apprenticeships play a crucial part in outstanding Early Years provision and I’m passionate about placing as many staff as possible on apprenticeships because I believe in giving people opportunities to succeed.
“Also, as someone who is dyslexic, I always struggled with the classroom environment but was able to turn my hand to any practical challenge.
“Everyone deserves a chance and a college environment is not suitable for everyone. I like all my staff to have a Level 3 Early Years Educator qualification as a minimum and our partnership with C2C has helped us work towards that whilst filling skills gaps and giving our staff the confidence to lead in all of our age groups.”
Hayley believes C2C apprenticeships have helped her retain staff and keep up morale during some tough times recently. Out of 28 staff that have completed apprenticeships with The Willows Day Nursery, 17 are still employed at the setting. One of these learners was promoted to senior lead in the baby room after gaining a distinction.
“I’m really proud of this retention figure,” said Hayley. “While some staff members left then came back, others left the sector all together in search of a different challenge. What I can say is that as soon as a team member has finished training, there is always someone else waiting to be signed up.
“Not only are our apprentices able to gain a qualification, but they are also able to progress and the benefits of ‘growing my own employees’ through careful mentoring is immeasurable. It requires hard work, determination, and support from myself and the rest of the team.
“Over the years, I have built a strong relationship with C2C Early Years Training Consultant Zoe McKay who is committed to supporting the apprentices and me as a business. She is always on hand to answer any queries and regularly takes time to speak with me and review all the apprentices and their progress which I find useful.
“As a result, we have a team of confident Early Year practitioners that provide a high standard of care and quality teaching.”
The Willows Day Nursery prides itself on being a company that nurtures its staff and utilises their talents for the good of everyone. Hayley has several staff incentive schemes in place to boost morale and teamwork. These include different staff rewards such as lucky dip envelopes with prizes ranging from days off leave, money, vouchers and spa days. During Wellbeing Week, she made up bags of hand cream and treats to support staff.
The setting also enjoys playing a big part in the local community. It regularly collects food to support local food banks and contributes to safeguarding training in association with the local authority including making an information video for parents. Staff also make visits to a local care home.
“Being visible in the local community is important to us and helps us build a reputation as a happy place to work,” added Hayley.