12th September 2023 All Posts

Ashbourne Day Nurseries: Growth Plans

Part 1 of ‘Ask the Expert’ with Jordan Tully, Head of Operations at Ashbourne Day Nurseries

Welcome to our beloved blog series, “Ask the Expert,” where we create a nurturing platform for Early Years Education and Care (ECEC) professionals to share their wisdom and experiences with the sector. Whether you’re an expert in policy, a nutrition specialist, or a knowledgeable practitioner, we eagerly invite you to be part of this enriching conversation!

This month, we have the privilege of chatting with Jordan Tully, the esteemed Head of Operations at Ashbourne Day Nurseries. In this insightful blog, he discusses the core principles of nurturing and expanding a nursery group.

Let's delve into the fascinating journey of Ashbourne Day Nurseries!

Founded in 2008 by parents, for parents, their very first nursery opened its doors in the heart of Oxley Park, Milton Keynes, offering 107 childcare spaces. Fast forward 15 years, and Ashbourne now boasts an impressive 29 settings, providing a remarkable 2001 spaces.

Throughout its growth journey, Ashbourne has remained committed to celebrating the unique essence of each of its nurseries, offering high-quality childcare, approved by Ofsted, across all locations. Excitingly, the nursery group is not stopping there, as they have their sights set on expanding even further, aiming to reach an impressive 40 settings by year-end.

Stay tuned as Jordan shares invaluable insights and experiences, paving the way for nurturing and flourishing nursery environments.

Firstly, what does being Head of Operations involve?

My role is to make sure settings are providing high-quality childcare while being profitable enough to be sustainable and financially viable in the long run.

A significant aspect of my responsibilities involves guaranteeing that our operations adhere to all necessary regulations, while also managing staffing costs effectively. We take great care to set our fees at a level that aligns with the exceptional care we provide, ensuring fairness to both parents and the establishment.

At Ashbourne, we are deeply committed to making a positive impact on vulnerable children, a part of my role is to ensure funding is allocated to provide them with high-quality care.

My job is also about forward planning because as we integrate new nurseries, it includes things like planning for staffing, enabling environments, Ofsted registrations, and implementing new systems across the business. I also spend time providing training to managers, meeting with the finance team, and sitting with the senior team to ensure we’re profitable and, first and foremost, achieving high-quality childcare.

To ensure smooth operations and financial success, I dedicate time to train our managers, collaborate closely with the finance team, and work closely with the senior leadership. Ultimately, our goal is to achieve excellence in childcare while maintaining a sustainable and thriving business model.

What do you enjoy most about your role?

One of the most fulfilling aspects of my role is the opportunity to visit our many settings and witness the incredible initiatives they are implementing. It’s truly inspiring to gather insights from these experiences and contribute to replicating their successes in other settings. The joy of witnessing the positive impact across various settings and regions is truly rewarding.

It is also rewarding to know that my efforts not only contribute to the efficient operations of Ashbourne but also make a meaningful difference in the lives of the children and families under our care. Their well-being and growth remain at the heart of everything we do.

As Ashbourne continues to thrive and expand, we have recognised the importance of restructuring and enhancing the support we provide to our settings. Growth necessitates adapting our support systems to ensure they align perfectly with the evolving needs of our organisation. I have enjoyed being involved in implementing these changes, ensuring hands-on and tailored support for our settings while fortifying our processes for a future of continued growth and development.

What challenges are you currently facing as Head of Operations?

As the Head of Operations, I am currently navigating through some notable challenges, with Covid leaving its mark on various aspects of our work. One significant impact has been on the quality of staff we attract. The pandemic saw a surge of individuals entering the field with knowledge-based qualifications rather than practical, observation-based assessments. This shift has posed challenges to the sector, as hands-on experience plays a crucial role in delivering exceptional childcare.

Additionally, Covid has reshaped the way parents approach childcare services. With more people working from home, the demand for regular childcare has decreased. Consequently, parents are accessing settings differently, and this shift in behaviour has introduced a new level of competition among childcare providers. To stay relevant and appeal to their target demographic, different providers are offering various enticing packages, making the landscape increasingly competitive.

Adapting to these changes and ensuring the continued delivery of high-quality care while attracting skilled staff remains at the forefront of our efforts. By addressing these challenges head-on, we are committed to maintaining our commitment to excellence and meeting the evolving needs of our community.

What insights or guidance can you offer to fellow childcare providers looking to grow?

In the fast-paced world of nursery management, it’s crucial not to lose sight of your initial vision and the ethos you aspired to when you first opened your setting. Each nursery should be treated as a unique entity, allowing for efficient and tailored operations.

When considering new locations for expansion, it’s vital to be diligent in assessing their suitability and alignment with your core values. Realism is key – ensure that the new setting complements your existing offerings and can uphold the high standards you’ve set. The Paramount to success is ensuring that you can consistently provide the level of support each individual setting needs to flourish.

By staying true to your ethos and taking a thoughtful approach to expansion, you can foster a network of nurseries that not only thrive individually but also collectively contribute to the holistic growth and development of every child in your care. Remember, it all begins with nurturing the essence of each setting while envisioning a bright future for your nursery group as a whole.

Finally, can you tell us about how you use the Connect Childcare solution at Ashbourne?

The Connect Childcare management system plays a pivotal role in supporting the day-to-day aspects and smooth running of all our nursery settings. From handling billing, invoicing, and financial matters to generating insightful reports and aiding in accurate forecasting, Connect Childcare has become a reliable ally in ensuring our administrative tasks are streamlined and efficient.

Recently, we’ve begun using the management system to address our HR needs. Now, we effortlessly create staff rotas and manage holidays, making the payroll process easier.

We use iConnect to facilitate children’s learning and growth through observations, assessments, and detailed learning journals. Furthermore, iConnect enables us to keep parents well-informed by sending them daily updates about their child’s activities and progress at the nursery. This nurturing approach to communication strengthens our bond with parents and fosters a collaborative learning journey.

We’ve adopted the new enquiries module and will be using this actively from September onwards. This module will efficiently capture and organise all incoming enquiries, ensuring that no potential connection is missed. As we continue to embrace the latest advancements in the software, we remain committed to creating a nurturing and enriching environment for every child and family in our care.

Stay tuned for part 2 of our ‘Ask the Expert’ series with Jordan as he discusses the exciting possibilities and opportunities of working in the early years sector.

Parental Engagement: A Guide for Progressive Nursery Managers

Improving parent partnerships and engagement is a journey, and one which benefits from the expertise of experienced, empathetic and progressive professionals.

To discover more about what parental engagement best practice looks like, download our free and dedicated guide on the subject.
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About the Author

Marketing Executive at Connect Childcare