The safety and wellbeing of all our staff, children and parents is our number one priority
Our ethos – putting family first
Family First was established in 2019 with a clear ambition to become the number one quality childcare provider in the UK.
Our ethos is all about putting the family first, whether it be parents, grandparents, carers, friends, employees, or colleagues as well as the children we care for. It is all about looking after families, whatever they are going through in life, ensuring they always come first.
We do this by empowering our managers and giving them a sense of ownership of everything that is happening within their own nursery.
We support the whole team with the resources, training and information they need to create an outstanding and supportive nursery environment.
About Family First
Family First has grown to 40 nurseries in London, the West Midlands, Essex and the South East in little over two years, offering more than 2,650 places.
Our aim is to grow further by acquiring well-run local nurseries that share our vision of providing outstanding quality childcare.
The way we do this has been recognised at the annual national NMT Awards, which celebrates and recognises the achievements of the nursery sector, where we were awarded the Business Development Award 2021.
Family First is led by Chairman Andy Morris, who has more than 25 years’ experience running national nursery groups, focusing on the development, wellbeing and safety of our children and staff.
You can read more about our approach in our articles that have appeared in Nursery Management Today: September 2020 / November 2020 / January 2021 / March 2021 / May 2021 / July 2021 / September 2021 / November 2021
Family First – a winning team!
25 November 2021 There were big smiles all round at the NMT Awards when Family First scooped the ‘Nursery Business Development Award’, recognising our outstanding achievements.
We were chosen from all the newcomers across the industry for the significant growth of our business, now standing at 40 nurseries.
The award, sponsored by nursery management software providers Connect Childcare, was presented at the NMT Awards, held at the Hilton London Metropole on 20 November 2021, in front of more than 800 colleagues from our profession. It was given by former Eastenders actor Shaun Williamson, who played Barry Evans,
The criteria focused on how Family First’s launch had been outstanding and benefited the children, staff and local communities. The judges said: ‘In a very closely competed category, we chose Family First as winners on account of the way that it has been able to successfully scale through acquisition in such a short timeframe while genuinely being able to bring the staff along, protect local brands while enhancing the proposition for parents, and drive financial performance.
“The judges have first-hand experience of how difficult it is to balance quick growth with maintaining and improving performance. As such, Family First’s achievements and continued ambitions are highly commendable.”
Family First CEO Ollie Humphries said it was a fantastic evening and gave the team the opportunity to celebrate all the hard work and achievements of everyone from across all our nurseries.
“When Covid hit, it helped us really focus on our core values and identify how we can grow in the right way,” he said. “We have a clear strategic direction which focuses on quality and building on some of the amazing journeys that these individual nurseries have already been through.
“We take the time to learn from every individual that we come across on this exciting journey, and absorb the insights of those selling their businesses to us.”
Family First Chief Childcare and Operations Officer Dianne Lumsden-Earle agreed: “It was a phenomenal achievement to be recognised for our growth as well as maintaining the quality of our service. We are on a journey and are growing as a company but we will not compromise on quality or standards in any of our nurseries.”
Ollie added: “Our childcare team, led by Dianne, know the key ingredient is child safety and fulfilment and this is constant across all our nurseries. We have a strong childcare support committee made up of our internal experts and the people we have worked with over the last two years.
“Family First is not just a name for us but a core ethos that allows us to constantly remind ourselves what is important as we grow. We are taking some of our owners on this journey way past the point of the nursery passing to our care. It’s great to be recognised at the NMT Awards for the special ethos that we have throughout Family First.”
- Photo shows: Actor Shaun Williamson with Family First Chairman Andy Morris, CEO Ollie Humphries, Chief Childcare and Operations Officer Dianne Lumsden-Earle, Chief Financial Officer Craig Grant, along with Chris Reid, Chief Executive of Connect Childcare.
Family First takes giant strides to 40 nurseries
1 November 2021 Fast-growing children’s nursery group Family First has extended its geographical footprint into the West Midlands with the acquisition of 10 Footsteps’ day nurseries.
At the same time, it has confirmed its strategic direction to grow Family First within commuter belts, metropolitan cities and areas of housing growth, recognising a shift in housing requirements as a result of the Covid pandemic.
This brings its total number of nurseries to 40 in just two years and follows its acquisition earlier this month of the Rosewood Montessori in Ruislip, five Just Imagine nurseries in Essex and the Fount day nursery in Hackney.
Family First Chairman Andy Morris said: “Footsteps is a nursery group that’s special and is an amazing business with great potential to grow. We’re excited to be working with the Footsteps’ team and look forward to welcoming them, the parents and children on board.
“To date, we’ve concentrated on acquiring nurseries around London and the M25, dipping into the neighbouring counties of Kent, Surrey and Essex, but there are so many opportunities across the country for outstanding nurseries, particularly focusing in areas where there are shifting growth patterns caused by the Covid pandemic.”
Explaining his decision to sell, Footsteps’ owner Gavin Harvey (pictured, right, with Andy Morris) said: “We’d taken the business as far as we could and knew that to grow it further required substantial investment. So we were delighted to choose Family First to take our organisation to the next level in our company’s evolution.
“Family First ticked all the boxes for us as we wanted to find a buyer that shared our own ethos of providing high quality childcare, one where the team already have a long track record in our industry and one which is willing to invest in our team and our business.”
Mr Harvey set up the nursery group in a former residential property in Tamworth in 2002 and has since expanded it to Canwell, Cannock, Fradley, Lichfield, two other Tamworth locations, Stafford, Stratford-upon-Avon and Walmley, offering 866 nursery places in total. Five of the nurseries are Ofsted Outstanding. This now brings the total number of places within the whole Family First group to 2,652.
Family First CEO Ollie Humphries added: “We’re extremely delighted to welcome Footsteps to the Family First fold and will be retaining its excellent branding and profile in its local areas.
“We have developed an incredibly strong culture at Family First, one where we empower the managers to make important decisions about the future of their nurseries, with plenty of back-up and support, along with training and development, and we’re looking forward to learning about all the excellent things they do, which can be shared with other nurseries across the Family First group.”
Nick Brown, Director and Head of Brokerage at Christie & Co, commented: “I am delighted to have helped Gavin sell the Footsteps group to Family First Nurseries and I wish him all the best with his future plans. Having known Gavin for over 20 years now and helped him grow his portfolio with a number of high-quality acquisitions, he has also been a great sounding board for me over the years, sharing his knowledge around the industry and Ofsted from an operator perspective at the rock face. Thanks, also, to Julie Hughes and her team from Cripps Pemberton Greenish for their help in completing this transaction.
“Due to the demand for high-quality childcare settings across the Midlands, there has recently been a number of landmark deals achieved, from impressive single settings through to multi-site groups. As buyers are looking for better value options to London and the SE, the Midlands is an ideal location to achieve this.”
Family First continues to grow
The Family First children’s nursery group is continuing to flourish with the addition of two more nurseries this summer to its Little Garden portfolio.
Grace’s Day Nursery in Perry Hill will become The Dulwich Day Nursery and Pre-school while Katey’s Nursery is being renamed as The Roehampton Nursery and Pre-School.
Family First CEO Ollie Humphries (pictured right) said: “We are thrilled to welcome two lovely nurseries in the London area to our group as we continue on our mission to become one of the leading providers of high-quality childcare in the UK.
“Both nurseries have an appreciation of the natural world and have a strong synergy with our five existing Little Garden nurseries.
“This brings the total number of nurseries within the whole Family First group to 19 and we will be working closely with our new managers to ensure a smooth transition, with plenty of exciting career development opportunities for all our team members.”
Michelle Gregory will take the helm as Nursery Manager in Dulwich with Keeley Rolph as her Deputy. The nursery provides childcare for 73 children. It has a stunning indoor environment, encouraging children to grow and develop through child-centred play.
The 50-place Roehampton nursery will be led by Nursery Manager Adella Bernard. The nursery embodies Little Garden’s ‘Nurture, Care, Inspire’ ethos, and prides itself on creating a calm and nurturing environment, empowering the children to grow in confidence as they progress through their early years’ journey.
Long-standing nursery owner chooses to sell to Family First
26 August 2021 The Family First children’s nursery group has acquired a further two Outstanding nurseries, both in Enfield.
Nursery on the Hill, which was founded in 2006, and Nursery on the Green, which was established six years later, have been sold to Family First by owner Kaye Wildman.
Kaye said: “I was really impressed with Family First and all the effort they have put in to get to know my business. They think the same way about nursery care as I do and I know they will look after my team and the children, which is important to me.
“The nurseries have had considerable investment over the years, including more than £200,000 in Nursery on the Hill, and we have put so much energy into training and supporting our teams, focusing on health and wellbeing, safeguarding and providing high standards in all that they do.”
Family First CEO Ollie Humphries said: “We are absolutely thrilled to add a further two exceptional nurseries to our growing portfolio that share our ethos of providing first-class quality childcare.
“We can see that all the investment has really paid off, with Kaye and her nursery teams repeatedly being awarded Outstanding by OFSTED and continuing to operate to capacity, thanks to happy parents and word of mouth.
“With our Head Start day nursery also in Enfield, we now have three within close proximity as we recognise this is a growing area, and this now brings us to 21 nurseries within the Family First group.”
Nursery on the Hill and Nursery on the Green both cater for children aged 6 months to 5 years, together providing 110 places.
Kaye, who began her career as a childminder, is now looking forward to her retirement. She added: “I have three grandchildren in the nurseries and Family First have made me feel so welcome to stay in touch with the nurseries and visit at any time. This means a lot.”
Pictured top are: Family First Director of Operations and Quality Dianne Lumsden-Earle with two-year-old Ivy at Nursery on the Green.
Pictured left is Nursery Assistant Rebecca Broomfield with Zachary, 4, and Myla, 3.
Family First reach 30 nurseries’ milestone
29 October 2021 The Family First children’s nursery group has now grown to 30 nurseries following the acquisition of the Rosewood Montessori, Just Imagine and Fount nurseries.
This milestone has been achieved in just over two years, despite the challenges caused by the Covid pandemic, making it one of the fastest growing nursery groups in the UK.
CEO Ollie Humphries said: “We are on a mission to become the best quality childcare provider in the country and have been seeking like-minded businesses or ones where there is opportunity for further growth in nursery places. Our latest acquisitions underline our desire to continue adding quality locations to our growing portfolio of brands.”
Director of Operations and Childcare Dianne Lumsden-Earle (pictured with Fount Nursery Manager Eliz Kanioz) added: “I’m delighted to welcome the teams and families from our new nurseries to Family First. I’m excited that these nurseries have joined our family as they fit our ethos and beliefs about giving children and families the highest quality of childcare, with an ambition to be outstanding wherever we operate.”
Just Imagine has five nurseries in Essex: in Colchester, Maldon, Vange and two in Wickford, with a total of 221 nursery places, extending the Family First footprint out of London and beyond the M25. Rosewood Montessori is a 45-place nursery in Ruislip and the Fount nursery has 88 places in Hackney.
Just Imagine Co-Director Mike Springett explained his company’s decision to sell to Family First: “After considering a number of options before us we became convinced that the ethos, ambitions and achievements of Family First would ensure a bright future for Just Imagine Nurseries. We are thrilled that our children, families and staff remain in safe hands and wish everyone success in the coming years.”
Sophie Willcox and David Eaves, Directors at Christie & Co, who handled these sales, commented: “We are delighted to have worked for the Directors of the Just Imagine group and Rosewood Montessori in finding them the perfect home for their nurseries.
“These were competitive processes, highlighting again that quality single settings and small groups are in high demand and achieving premium sale prices as a result. We wish Family First the best of luck for the future with these nurseries and are delighted to have helped them reach 30 settings.”
New CEO for Family First
7 May 2021 Family First is delighted to announce the appointment of Ollie Humphries as our new CEO, to oversee our growth and continue our focus on bringing the best quality employees to our team.
Ollie, 41, from Cambridgeshire, is bringing his senior level experience from the retail and hospitality sector to support Family First’s ambitious plans to become the number one quality childcare provider in the country.
Ollie said: “I’m so excited to be joining an organisation which shares my own ethos for attracting the best staff, with a vision to move newly acquired nurseries from Good to Outstanding and provide exceptional quality childcare.”
Married to Dana and with two young children – nine-year-old Mylo and seven-year-old Scarlett – Ollie is highly supportive of the drive by Family First to provide excellent quality in everything the organisation offers to children, their parents and carers.
The Chairman of Family First, Andy Morris, said: “We are thrilled to welcome Ollie to our team, with his experience of working in large organisations going through transformation and his focus on attracting the most talented staff to work for us. We chose him because he’s a great people person.
“We’ve grown to 17 nurseries since acquiring our first nursery group in June 2019, now offering more than 1,000 childcare places within a 35-mile radius of London. We’re on target to reach 30 nurseries by the end of August. It was therefore crucial that we found the right person to maintain our fantastic momentum.”
Ollie was previously Managing Director of restaurant chain Frankie and Benny’s, and formerly a Divisional Director at William Hill with accountability for the people and P&L of 1250 branches. He has also been a Franchise Operations Leader for over 600 KFC restaurants. In his spare time, he enjoys competing in duathlons, skiing and coaching the local U7s football team.
Six Poppies Nurseries join Family First
31 March 2021: Family First has expanded into Buckinghamshire and Berkshire, bringing our total number of nurseries to 17 in our first 22 months of operation. We have bought the six Poppies Day Nurseries and are on target to owning 30 nurseries by the end of August.
Family First Chairman Andy Morris says: “Poppies Nurseries are very well-run and are at the heart of their local communities. We are the perfect match as we share the same ethos when it comes to providing excellent quality childcare implemented by skilled members of the team with years of experience between them.
“Providing a safe, high-quality environment for our staff and children is our number one priority. Acquiring these day nurseries is a perfect example of how our joint expertise can make a positive impact on the staff and children in our care.”
The Poppies nurseries, providing almost 400 nursery places and employing over 100 staff, are in Bourne End, Marlow, Beaconsfield and Holmer Green in Buckinghamshire, as well as Maidenhead and Old Windsor in Berkshire. The group was founded in 2006, and all are rated by Ofsted as Good, apart from the most recent, Maidenhead, which is awaiting inspection. Family First has also acquired the 54-place Kiddies Academy Day Nursery in Beaconsfield, which is also rated Good by Ofsted.
Family First Director of Operations and Quality Dianne Lumsden-Earle added: “These nurseries are known for their exceptional, nurturing staff who have provided a safe, progressive environment for the children in their care, especially throughout Covid-19. Each nursery has a relaxed yet stimulating environment with plenty of educational play and activities provided on a daily basis and fits perfectly with our own ethos of providing the best possible start for all of our children.”
The latest acquisitions mean that Family First now offers more than 1,000 childcare places within a 35-mile radius of London.
Family First Nurseries
Poppies Day Nursery - Maidenhead
Poppies Day Nursery - Holmer Green
Poppies Day Nursery - Old Windsor
Poppies Day Nursery - Marlow
Poppies Day Nursery - Bourne End
Poppies Day Nursery - Beaconsfield
The Kiddies Academy - Beaconsfield
Brentford Day Nursery & Pre-School
Acorn Montessori - Harrow
Prima Montessori - Gillingham
Bizzy Bees Day Nursery - Worcester Park
Head Start Day Nursery - New Barnet
Head Start Day Nursery - Potters Bar
Clapham Day Nursery & Pre‑School
Hammersmith Day Nursery & Pre‑School
Kentish Town Day Nursery & Pre‑School
Head Start Day Nursery - Enfield
Roehampton Day Nursery & Pre-School
Dulwich Day Nursery & Pre-School
Nursery on the Hill - Enfield
Nursery on the Green - Enfield
Rosewood Montessori - Ruislip
Fount Nursery - Hackney
Just Imagine Day Nursery - Colchester
Just Imagine Day Nursery - Station Avenue, Wickford
Just Imagine Day Nursery - London Road, Wickford
Just Imagine Day Nursery - Vange
Just Imagine Day Nursery - Maldon
Footsteps Nurseries - Cannock
Footsteps Nurseries - Canwell
Footsteps Nurseries - Dosthill
Footsteps Nurseries - Fazeley
Footsteps Nurseries - Fradley
Footsteps Nurseries - Lichfield Hawthorn
Footsteps Nurseries - Tamworth Lichfield Road
Footsteps Nurseries - Stafford
Footsteps Nurseries - Stratford-upon-Avon
Footsteps Nurseries - Walmley
Tongham Daycare - Tongham
Tiny Tots Daycare - Ash
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