The Famly Children’s Champion 2021 Shortlist

Here they are. The 10 finalists for The Famly Children's Champion 2021.
Children's champion 2021
March 16, 2022
Reading time:
a light bulb with the letter p inside it

a black and white image of two hearts

famly icon - piggy bank

a black and white image of two houses



a black and white image of a bunny and a bottle


a black and white heart icon

With Famly since

We are absolutely thrilled to be able to share our ten finalists for the Famly Children’s Champion 2021.

Just like last year, the stories we received were incredibly inspiring, and it wasn't an easy task to drill them down to 10 final candidates. We received a wide array of applications from all around the UK & Ireland, and we were so happy to see a representation of all the different versions of childcare across the countries.

It was a great reminder of how many wonderful people dedicate their lives to educate our nation's youngest children.

Our panel of expert judges will meet to decide the winner, and we will be announcing our Children's Champion during the Nursery World weekend at the end of April, so stay tuned for that event!

So, without further ado – your final 10.

Maria Culley, Nanny

Maria Culley

Maria has created lasting bonds with children and families over the years. From organising group play dates, Christmas and Halloween parties, as well as picnics, Maria has always included and been inclusive, ensuring the children's needs are met. She is well-known both in West Yorkshire & South London. Maria has secured the backing of her MP Robbie Moore to regulate the nanny industry, and she continues to work to safeguard children with the support of Robbie, while working full time, studying & writing. During the lockdown, Maria created care hampers for children at Airedale Hospital in West Yorkshire.

Why Catherine nominated Maria

Maria is working with her MP to regulate the nanny industry to safeguard and protect children, nannies & families. In 2021 she created the online forum Neuroscience Nanny Network. Her storybook about a nanny joining a family to aid the transition for children & their families will be out soon.

Gemma Turner, ToyBox

Gemma Turner

Gemma has a way of understanding behaviour as communication, and not seeing it as unwanted. She has supported a range of SEND, treating every child individually. She is continuously looking for ways to support the community, and she is well known for linking ToyBox with refugee women. She has adapted their setting to allow childcare to be attainable to all women. Their service is provided within Brighton Women's Centre. Gemma is so incredibly dedicated to personal development and has trained the staff in areas like Trauma, Anti-racist practice, mental health, feminism and staff well-being.

Why Clare nominated Gemma

Gemma is incredible. During the pandemic, she has sustained true leadership, turning our nursery into a hybrid centre that offers true wrap-around care. She has created a trauma-informed feminist nursery that is a hub for the community, with women and children at the centre of everything we do.

Julie Robinson, Eagley School House Nurseries

Julie Robinson

Julie's positive energy is infectious. She loves to support families and meet all the children, and she engages with them as if they were part of her own family. Julie volunteers in her community constantly. She helped with the vaccination process at the local health centre during COVID and offered food Christmas parcels for the elderly who lived alone during COVID. More recently, Julie set up well-being sessions for the staff and parents free of charge.  Her ideas are endless!

Why Mandy nominated Julie

Julie has owned her nursery for over 19 years. She is one of the most enthusiastic and caring persons I have had the privilege to know. Her passion to engage, support and teach children is exceptional. She is proactive and is always looking for ways to improve outcomes and lead practice.

Charlotte Hughes, Portico Lodge

Charlotte Hughes

Charlotte is exceptionally good at recognising the children’s interests in order to create an effective learning environment. She constantly reinvents the pre-school room, reflecting on the children’s needs, and she pays particular attention to their well being and regulation needs. Charlotte works closely with a local church and she has taken the children to the local residential home where they sang to the residents. She gets involved with the children at the local hospice, joining their scarecrow festival in order to raise funds.

Why Nicole nominated Charlotte

Charlotte came to Portico Day Nurseries 15 years ago as an apprentice. Even as a shy teenager, her first priority was being with the children. She has risen through the ranks to become a deputy. She had the opportunity to become a manager, but she always says "I just want to be with the children".

Jamel Carly, various nurseries

Jamel Carly

Jamel has a way with children. By moving relationally at the pace of each child, recognising that they are unique in their own way, and letting them lead the initial relationship, he helps children feel safe and heard. Besides his Early Years work in a variety of nurseries, Jamel has started a local youth club, written several early years related articles for a local paper, given interviews on his experience working as a black man in early years and mentored a number of teenagers.

Why David nominated Jamel

Jamel has worked in the Early Years sector in London for over 20 years. Through interviews, speeches, workshops, writing and active volunteer involvement, he continues to play a key role in helping our sector grow genuinely more inclusive in regards to our workforce, curriculum and pedagogy.

Catherine Jackson, Wise Owls Nursery

Catherine Jackson

Catherine has an amazing ability to understand and support children at all levels. She is a trained Speech Therapist, and tailors every child’s care based on their individual needs. Wise Owls have become an integral part of the local community, with an ethos of shop local and sustainable, and a focus on outdoor education, you can find the children out in the community at the forest school working with natural products and really embracing their inner wildling.

Why Kevin nominated Catherine

Catherine creates a truly inclusive environment for children and staff to grow. She is the owner and manager of Wise Owls, and to be during the challenging years of COVID, she took on every role you could imagine - working all hours to deliver amazing care to our children.

Michelle Cook, Early Years Educare

Michelle Cook

Nothing is too much trouble for Michelle. Owning 2 settings and having to remember 100 children by name, as well as their parents, Michelle never loses her personal touch with the families, and she displays incredible professionalism. Making a change in the lives of families with support as well as supporting and benefiting the community was Michelle's main aim. Those are some of the reasons why she opened her settings in the more deprived areas.

Why Joanne nominated Michelle

Early Years Educare Ltd. has developed 2 fantastic pre-school settings. Michelle's drive and passion for the Early Years resulted in two successful pre-schools, supplying service for two very different economic areas, and just recently acquired a third setting.

Joss Cambridge, Jossy Care

Joss Cambridge

Joss has his own love lead learning that he uses with families and he teaches them techniques to use while he isn’t around. Joss is also extremely strict on safeguarding and making sure he has everything in place for the children. He makes sure they are creative in their own space and spends time doing what they want to do not what he thinks they should do. Joss represents his local community by actively being involved in a wide range of activities, from black history month to appearing on CBBC.

Why Emma nominated Joss

Joss started Jossy Care and has thrived year after year, breaking down barriers and changing the narrative. He is a male black nanny who has had to deal with prejudice. Regardless of that, Joss has spent his own free time on podcasts, articles and TV, spreading his life lead learning message.

Rob Danks, Honey's Nest

Rob Danks

Rob has created a community pre-school for the neighbours and children from the area, but also hosts children that travel 30 miles to join Honey's Nest. That is only a testament to Rob's understanding of the children's needs and the work he does with the parents from the moment they enquire. Honey's Nest is now a HUB for the community - Rob helps and works with local parents who can't access the full fee settings around, and will support and give the children a place for free.

Why Nikki nominated Rob

Rob has created a pre-School and puts children's development before money. He has no government support but specialises in the 2, 3 and 4-year-old funding, where 96% of the children do not pay a penny. Rob has well-qualified staff to help develop the children and he has been recognised nationally.

Amy Jones, Banana Moon

Amy Jones

Amy has only been the setting manager for the last year and within that time has held COVID training, organised fairs to raise money for charities - including SANDS neonatal charity - and more. She works between rooms to best support both her staff and the children in the setting. She knows all the children by name, creating tasks, areas and play themes based on children's individual interests but promoting them in group play, further strengthening her knowledge and bond with each child and between each other.

Why Tallis nominated Amy

Amy puts her heart and soul into caring for the children who attend her setting, she has ensured that the team who work with her share her devotion and passion for educating our children.  She is innovative, creative and dedicated. Our children are the settings' priority, she's unique.

The big ideas

What’s next?
All of our ten finalists will be awarded fantastic prizes from our partners, including a three-month subscription to Early Years TV, one-year subscription to Teach Early Years, training discount vouchers for Early Education, plus a seminar pass at a Childcare & Education Expo of choice (Midlands '22, North '22 or London '23), and access to Early Years Hub's Safeguarding Children Level 2 or Designated Safeguarding Lead Masterclass courses.

Next, our panel of Early Years Experts will decide the final winner of the Famly Children’s Champion 2021. The winner will receive the inaugural hand-carved trophy, a year’s Premium subscription to Famly for their setting, and £5,000.

The panel, which includes Dr. Mine Conkbayir, Dr. Stella Louis, Neil Leitch, last year's Children Champion Helena Meineck, and many other experts, will meet virtually on to deliberate and choose their champion. You’ll hear about their decision during the Nursery World weekend at the end of April.

download pdf
graphical user interface, text, application
Official Danish Government Reopening Advice

Guidance from the Danish Health Ministry, translated in full to English.

Picture of a Guidance document
UK Nursery Covid-19 Response Group Recommendations

The full recommendations from a working group of over 70 nursery chains in the UK.

Please note: here at Famly we love sharing creative activities for you to try with the children at your setting, but you know them best. Take the time to consider adaptions you might need to make so these activities are accessible and developmentally appropriate for the children you work with. Just as you ordinarily would, conduct risk assessments for your children and your setting before undertaking new activities, and ensure you and your staff are following your own health and safety guidelines.

Learn more about Famly

Find out below from Neil Leitch about the impact of Famly at the Early Years Alliance, and see what we can do for you in a personal demo.