Two teams from Birmingham Day Nurseries headed to a glittering awards ceremony last week.

The National Day Nurseries Association’s annual awards recognise the childcare sector’s very best. That’s why the nursery teams were so thrilled to have been shortlisted in two highly competitive categories: The Elms for the Team Development Award, and Emily Grainger at The Oaks for Nursery Manager of the Year.

Staff gathered at the ceremony in Kenilworth on Friday 28 June to learn if they were the lucky winners.

Birmingham Day Nurseries staff at the NDNA awards 2019

Sadly, in both categories the nurseries were pipped to the post and received the ‘runner up’ award.

Childcare Services Manager Paula Hunt said, ‘Although the teams are disappointed not to have won the final awards, I’m so proud of them. These shortlistings mean the NDNA considers the work we’re doing at The Elms and The Oaks to be in the top three member nurseries across the whole of the UK – an amazing achievement!

‘I’m thrilled that the positive staff culture at The Elms has been recognised – all thanks to the intensive work put in by Selina Hunt and her team. The Oaks won Nursery Manager of the Year in 2018; while it would have been brilliant to win two years in a row, I’m so glad that Emily Grainger’s important contribution during a challenging year has been celebrated too. We might not have trophies, but in my eyes the staff are all winners.’

To reach this stage, the nurseries had to submit a portfoilo of evidence to demonstrate their achievements over the year.

Team Development at The Elms Day Nursery

For the Team Development award, The Elms showed that treating staff as valued individuals is key to their success.

Staff and children baking at the Elms Day Nursery

From supporting apprentices to become permanent practitioners to identifying long-term goals, staff are mentored and encouraged to pursue their passions.

The Elms has a positive, happy working environment where your personal development is encouraged. Having returned from maternity leave, I’ve been welcomed back with support from management and my team within the baby room. The best thing about my job is seeing the children thriving from their stimulating environment, and how they develop in all areas of their learning.

Jo, Nursery Practitioner

The judging panel were impressed by the high rate of staff retention and career development available: all the senior management team started at The Elms as practitioners; all six SENDCO staff and five Forest School leaders also trained here, and all staff are supported to undertake training at work.

They also appreciated the way individuals could direct their own progress to benefit the whole nursery – by learning Makaton, getting inspired by moving to a different age group, sharing their knowledge of safeguarding and allergy care, and introducing curiosity-led learning approaches.

Nursery Manager at The Oaks Day Nursery

To be nominated for Nursery Manager of the Year, the senior staff team had to show they believed their manager deserved to win.

I truly cannot see how anyone could possibly be more worthy of winning this award and I know it would mean the absolute world to her.

Laura, Deputy Manager

Acting Nursery Manager Emily Grainger took on the role from 2018’s NDNA Manager of the Year winner Rebecca Slater. Although these might seem large shoes to fill, Emily embraced the role with enthusiasm and a clear vision. She wanted to bring the Danish concept of ‘hygge’ to nursery: cosy comfort that’s instantly welcoming.

The setting has evolved with new natural resources and calming colours, and individual staff have been empowered to make changes to their own rooms. The impact has been clear, not only on the children but also the staff, during a year with many personal challenges. Throughout it all, her team appreciated Emily’s compassion and leadership.

Find out more about The Elms and The Oaks.

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