10th October 2023 All Posts

The Possibilities and Opportunities of Working in the Early Years Sector

Part 2 of ‘Ask the Expert’ with Jordan Tully, Head of Operations at Ashbourne Day Nurseries

Welcome to our blog series, ‘Ask the Expert,’ where we bring together Early Years (EY) professionals to share their invaluable experiences and insights with the industry. Whether you’re a policy expert, nutrition specialist, or passionate practitioner, we want to hear from you, let’s explore the wonders of the early years together!

This time, we have the pleasure of welcoming back Jordan Tully, the Head of Operations at Ashbourne Day Nurseries, who will take us on a captivating exploration of his journey into the early years sector. Get ready to be inspired as he sheds light on the incredible possibilities and opportunities that await those considering joining or working within this rewarding sector.

How did you begin your career in Early Years education?

My journey into Early Years education began unexpectedly. My family owned a childcare provision, and although I initially wanted to pursue a different path, I realised I enjoyed more practical approaches to work. Unsure of what to do, I followed the conventional route of school, sixth form, and university as advised by teachers and adults. However, I soon discovered that this academic journey didn’t suit my learning style. Seeking a more hands-on career, I decided to complete my level 3 in early childhood education while working at my family’s nursery.

Determined to explore other options, I applied for a job as a children’s representative at TUI, where I oversaw childcare aspects at a holiday resort, including nannying, kids’ clubs, and entertainment. Eventually, I knew I couldn’t be a holiday rep forever and returned home to pursue a “real job.” That’s when I applied to be a nursery manager at Ashbourne, and I’ve been here for four and a half years. It’s been a fulfilling journey, and I’m excited to share more about my experiences in this field.

Can you tell us more about your progression at Ashbourne?

Embarking on a thrilling journey of personal and professional growth, my career in the early years education field led me on an exciting path of discovery. Having spent four years working abroad, I realised the importance of familiarising myself with the ever-changing landscape of the sector, especially in terms of legislation and Ofsted requirements in the UK.

Eager to learn from experience, I seized the opportunity to join Ashbourne as a nursery manager. This role provided me with invaluable hands-on experience and a chance to learn and implement best practices. During the interview process, the potential for progression was clear, fueling my determination to excel.

As a nursery manager, I was faced with a unique challenge – the nursery was a work in progress, and there were essential welfare requirements to address. Our team embraced the task, and within the first nine months, we earned a “good” rating. We successfully closed all the welfare requirements and transformed the setting into an operationally successful environment.

I then took on the role of senior manager, overseeing two settings, and once again, we achieved remarkable operational success. With the nursery group experiencing expansion, I then began the role of cluster manager, further developing my leadership skills and fostering growth within the organisation.

Now, as the Head of Operations, I am thrilled to be part of Ashbourne’s incredible journey, contributing to its growth and success. The opportunities for professional development and the chance to make a meaningful impact in the early years sector continue to motivate me each day. 

What does being Head of Operations involve?

As discussed in part 1 of my ‘Ask the Expert’ blog, 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.

How do you feel you are represented as a male in the sector? How can early years providers create a more diverse workforce?

The representation of men in the childcare sector has been a long-standing issue, with only 3% of the workforce being male. Jordan emphasises the importance of creating a more diverse workforce, as children often come from various backgrounds and home environments. Having a diverse team can help cater to their individual needs and experiences.

To foster a more inclusive environment, early years providers can implement changes in their recruitment strategies. Introducing new roles and titles like “sports coach” and “early years educator” instead of the traditional “nursery nurse” can attract a broader range of candidates. Non-gender-specific titles naturally encourage a more diverse group of individuals to join the sector, promoting inclusivity.

Jordan shares a positive experience from his past, where he worked in a setting that had a remarkable 60% male staff. The diverse team brought a unique dynamic to the nursery, showcasing various skills and qualities. This diversity was highly rewarding for both the staff and the children, as they were exposed to different perspectives and influences.

For some children with same-sex parents, having male caregivers in the nursery played a crucial role in providing a male influence, which was significant to their development. This highlights the importance of representation in childcare settings and the positive impact it can have on children’s lives.

Ultimately, the childcare sector has the potential to be a welcoming space for a wide range of people, positively impacting the children under their care. By embracing diversity and recognising that this field is for everyone, early years providers can create an environment where all children feel understood, supported, and encouraged to thrive.

What advice would you give those wanting to work in the childcare sector?

If you’re considering a career in the childcare sector, the possibilities are truly endless. It’s not just about working directly with children in a nursery setting; there are numerous routes this qualification can lead you to. It’s essential for teachers and mentors to recognise and promote these diverse pathways within the early years sector.

Understanding the broader opportunities that come with a childcare qualification is crucial, especially in light of recent recruitment challenges. Some might hesitate to join the sector, thinking it offers limited career growth. However, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Take it from someone who has experienced it firsthand.

Personally, I wasn’t aware of the incredible places a childcare qualification could take me. For instance, I had the chance to work overseas in a rewarding role, broadening my horizons and gaining invaluable life experience. It’s not uncommon for others in the industry to embark on unique journeys as well. One of my area managers, for instance, ventured to Australia and became an au pair after obtaining his qualification.

Our Childcare Software Specialist started as a practitioner and worked her way up to become a room leader before joining Connect Childcare. Today, she plays a crucial role in implementing our software across all our settings. The early years sector is full of opportunities to grow, both professionally and personally.

As you progress in your career, you’ll find that working your way up in a group can lead to a rewarding income. There’s so much more to explore beyond being a practitioner forever. Various career paths open up, from compliance and operations to marketing, integration, and project management – there are so many different avenues available.

Don’t underestimate the power of a childcare qualification. It’s not just about being a “glorified babysitter.” Instead, it’s a ticket to a diverse and fulfilling career that can take you places you might never have considered. 

If you’d like to take part in our ‘Ask the Expert’ series, please contact our marketing team via marketing@connectchildcare.com 

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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

Content Marketing Executive at Connect Childcare