And the Nursery of the Year award was scooped by a delighted team at Ducklings Day Nursery in Hagley, Stourbridge, West Midlands.
TV and radio broadcaster Katie Thistleton announced the winners at the glitzy ceremony at the Chesford Grange Hotel in Kenilworth on 28 June, following NDNA’s annual nursery conference.
This year, Tobie Keel of First Friends Day Nursery in Salisbury scooped the Manager of the Year award, the first time a man has won the coveted award.
Former chef at the nursery, Tobie hoped his win would inspire more men to enjoy a career in childcare.
“This award means everything, it makes all the hard work worth it,” he said. “A lot of children don’t have a father figure in their lives for whatever reason so it’s nice to give them that role model. I’m very proud of this award.”
Carl Hathway of Elloughton Private Nursery with Little Acorns Ltd in East Yorkshire was named as the Practitioner of the Year. His colleagues picked up his award on the night because he was working at Camp America.
He sent the following message from America: “As a male working in childcare, I feel I have the ability to see how children ‘click’ on a different level. The children see me as a ‘novelty’ and therefore respond to me in a different way. I remember my first Parents Evening at my setting. There were so many parents who thought it was fantastic that a man worked with their children.
“I am thrilled to be the NDNA Practitioner of the Year and I think this award just goes to show how the times are changing and people’s perceptions about males working in childcare are just that. I really do hope we see an increase in male practitioners in the near future.”
NDNA received almost 6,500 votes from parents for the annual awards.
Alyson Burton, owner of Ducklings Day Nursery was thrilled to win Central England Nursery of the Year and went on to be crowned Nursery of the Year.
She said: “I would like to say a big thank you to my staff team as they are so fantastic, so hardworking and always go above and beyond. It’s their dedication that’s got us here tonight. We are all absolutely thrilled and I am so proud of them. The staff just have the children’s interests at the heart of everything they do.”
Purnima Tanuku OBE, Chief Executive of NDNA, said: “Congratulations to all of our winners. It’s our favourite night of the year because we can shout about all the wonderful work that our members do that makes such a difference to children’s lives and their families.
“As always, the judges had a tough time with the high standard of entries. We are so proud of the quality of provision that our nurseries deliver despite all the challenges facing them with regards to government underfunding.
“Well done to all our winners, our shortlisted nurseries and thank you to parents who voted so passionately.”
Winners of the Team Development Award was won by Honey Pot Nursery, Wavertree whose sister nursery in Garston was burned down in May. They have now moved into temporary premises.
One of the owners Jenna Geggie said: “We have had the most difficult year ever. There have been times this year where we have felt at the very bottom, so this is just fantastic and great for morale. It really helps getting this award. We are doing something right and getting the recognition for how hard the whole team worked. We have the most amazing team.
“The rebuild process will take time, both the physical rebuilding and the emotional scars. This award sets us off on a positive trajectory.”
Guests came from the UK and from across the world. A team from Kensington International Kindergarten in Bangkok picked up the International Nursery of the Year gong and also received their Quality Counts certificate, NDNA’s quality improvement scheme.
New for this year was the Supporting Staff Well-being award, won by Juice Nursery in Altrincham. At the start of the evening, glamourous host Katie Thistleton spoke about her own experiences with mental health issues and her work as an ambassador with Young Minds.
Headline sponsors for the event were TTS and Consortium. Blossom Educational sponsored the dinner.
Here is a full list of the award winners:
Find out more here.