We are absolutely thrilled to be able to share our ten finalists for the Famly Children’s Champion 2021.
In all honesty, we were absolutely floored by the stories we received. More than 700 exceptional entries from around the UK were painstakingly chiselled down to 100, before Bronagh, Aaron and I carefully selected this final list of 10.
It wasn’t easy to exclude so many astounding stories – if we could award hundreds of you that £5,000, we would.
Just going through the entries has once again lifted our spirits, and reminded us what a wonderful, caring, selfless and truly extraordinarily talented bunch of people educate our nation’s youngest children. We’ll be sharing as many of those stories as widely as we possibly can, so that more people can see that, too.
What’s next? Well, our panel of judges will be meeting shortly to decide on the winner, before we announce our overall Champion at the end of March. More on that below.
So, here it is. In no particular order – your final 10.
The tales of Alison’s imagination and ability to spin creative worlds out of nothing shone through and showed us just what an intuitively brilliant and passionate practitioner she is. Always putting the children first, her drive across the county to deliver handmade packages during the lockdown in particular really touched us. We loved how she spread the word of early years beyond the setting with monthly articles in a local magazine. A true Early Years all-rounder.
Alison is simply the best support any manager could hope for – she is loved by all who work with her, parents and children. Alison always goes above and beyond her role as a practitioner to ensure that all children are safe, happy and receiving the best possible learning opportunities. She has a wonderful ability to understand each child’s characteristics of effective learning and their specific interest to truly help them flourish and achieve.
“Tasha’s pushed to make sure LGBTQIA+ families have a place, a voice and belonging in her early years setting,” Aaron said. “Despite the pressures the pandemic put on her and her team, Tasha dug deep to give children a nourishing environment throughout, and one that reflects the identities within her community.”
Tasha runs our pre-school room at nursery, is our SENCO and makaton trainer, who always keeps an eye on the children most in need and never misses anything. She is invested in making our space the most beautiful, engaging and encouraging environment it can be whilst on a very tight budget! She spins lots of plates at work whilst also caring for her two step-sons at home, and a menagerie of animals!
Mel and John stood out because of the impact they had beyond the four walls of their setting. As superstar childminders, they use their knowledge and passion to make sure every child in the community gets the very best start to life. It sounds like their setting became a real oasis of calm for children during the pandemic, and it was clear from the parent stories that they felt privileged to have their children in Mel and John’s care. Now that’s our kind of Power Couple.
Mel and her husband John put every child in their care at the centre of their world. They invite their childminding families into their own family’s home and life, and supports them through the toughest and the most joyful of circumstances. They champion the childminders in our community organising training and support events such as Makaton training, children’s groups and works closely with Surestart children’s centres and schools. They ensure that every child in our community – not just the ones they care for – has a safe place, access to learning and a life full of joy, wonder, knowledge and power.
“Not everybody would see a banana costume or a pet worm as a teaching tool, but Katie’s got this pure spirit of play and curiosity that lets her connect with children on their terms,” Aaron said. “Not only that, but she’s a great ambassador for the Early Years within London’s Hackney district. From bringing the children out in the community, to inviting neighbours to share cultural stories and traditions in her setting, she spreads that sense of play and exploration way beyond her classroom.”
Katie went above and beyond for our children and community throughout the pandemic, and before the pandemic, and even came to our rescue when she was on maternity leave. She has such enthusiasm for early years and believes all children should have the highest quality early education regardless of social or economic circumstances. Katie always thinks outside the box, but also knows how important the fundamentals are to young children so PSED is at the heart of everything she does, as well as teaching the children to look after their planet and their community. And her classes are mega fun.
“Naz’s support, dedication and commitment to bringing not only the children and parents together, but the local community, is outstanding,” according to content editor Bronagh. “I could feel the warmth from her application, and her status as a role model and as an inspiration for children and members of staff is undeniable – she makes both children and staff so eager to learn. I could clearly see the glowing links she’s created between the setting, the home and the community.”
Naz is a truly inspirational leader and an early years star. She is one in a million. Her passion for outstanding care and exceptionally high standards is something that everyone admires daily. Naz has tons of positivity and an exceptionally kind heart. She leads by example and motivates her team every day to be the best they can be ensuring the team live and breathe the culture and ethos of the company. I am privileged to work with a manager of such high calibre and talent who is an inspiration to everyone yet so selfless and humble.
Candice is one of those rare finds who brings an infectious energy when they’re on the floor. And not just for the children, but the staff who get to learn and work alongside her. We’re so proud to have someone who is so clearly a lynchpin of their local community on our final shortlist, with her work during the pandemic being commended by the Mayor of London as “A shining example of what happens when the community works together.” What a legend.
Candice is a rare gem. A dedicated and dynamic individual supporting highly vulnerable children and families. Driven by hope, Candice is that vital person within the lives of many children and families. Leading and developing positive community engagement initiatives, she is the reason our community thrives. Candice has an intrinsic understanding of the challenges faced by disadvantage families. Everyone gravitates to her bright smile, kind nature and nurturing approach. Candice brings a refreshing and compelling meaning to the sense of belonging within our community.
“Simon really stood out to me due to his constant hard work and selfless attitude,” says Bronagh, “particularly towards his LGBTQIA+ and Men In the Early Years groups. From his eco-conscious work to his gender-inclusive practices, his compassion and striving for inclusivity is nothing short of heartwarming. He makes sure every single child feels included, and shows the children that there are no limits to what they can achieve.”
Simon is an excellent advocate and promoter of Early Years provision who creates an effective, professional and caring team who deliver an outstanding level of care and education to all children in the nursery. Simon is a manager who has the community at heart, teaching the importance to young people of multi-generation inherent. Simon is an ambassador of equality and diversity, leading and hosting LBGTQ+ and MITEY (Men In The Early Years) groups. Simon has worked together with his local hospital offering support and child care even in the most difficult times of Covid 19 pandemic, offering sensitivity and compassion.
“Bridgit’s growing collection of awards for her work in the Early Years already points to what makes her such a strong contender. We’re certainly not the first to recognise what she’s doing for the sector,” Aaron writes. “Not only does she do exceptional work in her own home setting, but she shares her knowledge and insights with other practitioners and parents — her good work lifts up everyone around her.”
Pebbles Childcare became the first ever winners of the ‘Childminding Business of The Year’ award at the 2018 Nursery World Awards. The learning experience Bridgit provides for the children in her care is like no other childminder in the locality. Bridgit listens to the Child’s Voice to set the precedent for the experiences she provides, putting them first in every decision she makes, planning stimulating activities and experiences and educational outings every week.
“Helena brings her own diverse, multicultural community to the heart of her setting. This jumped out at me, as she goes above and beyond to include every child and their unique heritage into the work that she does. She brings different communities and cultures together, and that’s nothing short of magical. On top of that, her delicate attention to vulnerable children reminded me the power practitioners have in making a child’s future,” says Bronagh.
Helena is an exceptional practitioner and leader. She has supported a small setting in the heart of Exmouth with high numbers of vulnerable children for 12 years. She has overcome many challenges to keep her setting open and ensure that the children and families she supports can access to the best early years provision possible. She is always on to the next exciting and innovative idea to improve outcomes and her relentless focus which is always on the children, giving them the best opportunities to achieve their potential no matter what the barriers, is an example to us all.
Kelly came with some of the most astounding parent comments we received, every one of them glowing with praise. One shining example of what makes Kelly so special was the huge lengths she went to make the setting safe for a young girl after she returned from her treatment for Leukaemia – making sure life could be every bit as normal as she deserved. No challenge too great for this children’s champ.
Kelly started her vocation at Jancett Childcare as a student in 1993. Gaining experience and qualification in several of the companies Nurseries. Kelly moved to Pollyanna Day Nursery as Manager in 2015 where she still is today. Kelly has gained many qualifications over the years to further her knowledge and is level 4 qualified. Kelly takes pride in her nursery and loves to see the progression her staff and children make. Kelly and her team are dedicated in creating a home from home feeling where the children and parents are made to feel safe and secure.
All of our ten finalists will be awarded fantastic prizes from our partners, including subscriptions to Kathy Brodie’s wonderful Early Years TV and Teach Early Years Magazine, free passes to seminars at the Childcare & Education Expo, and Twinkl goodie bags.
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, the Alliance’s Neil Leitch, and many other well-known faces, will meet virtually on the 24th March to deliberate and choose their champion. You’ll hear about their decision in a special announcement event at the beginning of April.
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.