Childbase Partnership leads national trial to close ‘word gap’ in Early Years

Northampton University partnership

Childbase Partnership has been chosen for a sector-leading national trial to determine the impact of environment on children’s speech and language development and close the post-pandemic ‘word gap’ hindering progress at school.

The Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) with Northampton University – a first for the Early Years Sector – involves a 20-month study in all 44-day nurseries at the employee-owned Childbase Partnership, which was rated Nursery World Magazine ‘Top’ for quality in 2024 based on Ofsted results.

Trialling the Environment Audit for Speech and Language/EASAL developed by Dr. Tanya Richardson, the research will include the use of GoPro cameras to record and then analyse children’s verbal interactions in relation to environment, resources, and teaching.

Lorna Wigley, Director of Quality and Training at Childbase Partnership, said:

“It is a privilege to be the first Early Years provider to embark on a KTP. This research project promises to give us the means to close the ‘Word Gap’ and empower children with the necessary vocabulary to express themselves more fully and unlock their access to learning.”

Our post pandemic focus on speech and language development in Childbase Partnership nurseries and the priority we give to establishing imaginative well-resourced environments and highly trained practitioners aligns perfectly with Dr. Richardson’s approach and our shared aim of achieving outstanding outcomes for children at this critical stage of their development.”

Dr Richardson, Senior Lecturer in Education (Childhood, Youth and Families) was awarded the Innovate UK-funded KTP which is part of a UK scheme to help businesses of all sizes develop with the aid of University knowledge and expertise.

The audit tool developed by Dr Richardson stipulates a total of 27 crucial elements nurseries should provide to get the most out of their environments and teaching. These include a quiet space for children to process their thoughts, the ability for children to move around the setting freely, the provided resources, the use of natural resources and provocations, and an appropriate number of books.

As part of the research project, a University of Northampton Knowledge Transfer Partner Associate will work alongside the Childbase Partnership Quality and Training team in providing further staff training, supporting parents, and aiding creative planning for play and learning environments in future settings.



Childbase Partnership - best in UK for quality early years care and education

Number 1 Nursery World league tables

Childbase Partnership has been rated No.1 in UK league tables for the quality of its early years care and education in 44-day nurseries in the South of England.

Topping the Nursery World Magazine League tables – the only national report produced annually on the Ofsted inspection results for group providers – the award-winning employee-owned company has all its setting currently rated Outstanding or Good.

A delighted Emma Rooney, Childbase Partnership Chief Executive Officer explained, the achievement is personal to all 2,000 plus employee-owners at the company and testament to their continuous commitment to excellence.

“Results like this do not happen by chance and are not confined to just one day of inspection every four to six years. My colleagues are committed to, and passionate about, delivering the best possible care and early education to the children and families in our nurseries every day of the week,” she said.

The top rating follows changes to both the Early Years Framework and the Ofsted post-pandemic lockdowns inspection process and after a year when the number of Outstanding grades amongst the 25 largest group providers fell from 369 in the 2023 League tables to 319.

The league table success follows last year’s bumper crop of awards for Childbase Partnership which is a Sunday Times top 10 Best Place the Work, Number 14 in the UK Great Place to Work Awards, Eco-Schools ‘Early Years Provider of the Year’.



Childbase is ‘Top 10’ in The Sunday Times Best Places to Work list

Sunday Times Best Places to Work

It’s official. Childbase really is a ‘UK Best Place to Work’ after making it on the prestigious Sunday Times lists just two weeks after being named the only Early Years provider in the  Top 20 of the UK ‘Great Place to Work’ awards. 

In The Sunday Times Very Big Organisation (2,000+) category, Childbase Partnership was once again the only Early Years provider to receive a ‘Top 10’ listing in the category, was highly commended in the ‘Best Places to work for 16-34 years olds’ category and recorded overall happiness ratings 15% above others.

Ranked alongside Pizza Express, Fat Face fashion group, and David Lloyd Leisure, Childbase Partnership also achieved scores of 90% for pride in the employee-owned company and the initiatives in place to promote diversity and inclusion and environmental sustainability.

Cheering in 44 premium day nurseries in England greeted the announcement which included news that the company rated ‘Excellent’ in all areas of scrutiny measuring employee wellbeing, happiness and engagement.

Emma Rooney, Childbase Partnership Chief Executive Officer explained, the achievement is personal to all 2,000 plus employee-owners who are not only empowered to effect positive change but actively encouraged to do so.

“External surveys and awards scrutiny are just two elements in a raft of initiatives designed to gauge morale and tailor support and benefits more accurately. We are not only listening to each other we are also asking the right questions. 

When you are committed to giving young children the very best start in life, a happy supported staff team, who love their work and workplace, is absolutely vital.”

She said the current focus at the company remains on targeted support to help colleagues meet ‘cost of living’ challenges and follows an £8.5 million investment in increased salaries, free meals at work, discounted shopping deals and wellbeing and mental health initiatives introduced in December.   

“Happy, energized employees who have fun at work are more creative and innovative; establish strong, supportive relationships and not only enjoy their job but are also better equipped to meet workplace challenges.

As a result, employees are more likely to stay ensuring consistently high-quality provision which is very good news for the children and families in our care.”

Childbase Partnership has been a ‘ Sunday Times Best Company’ for over 13 years and was ranked No. 1 and No. 2 in 2020 and 2021 respectively. The new lists, powered by WorkL engagement specialists, do not rank by number.



‘Culture Day’ for new Childbase partners

Childbase Culture Day

Nothing says ‘You belong’ like lunch with the Chairman as 40 new recruits to Childbase Partnership discovered during ‘Culture Day’ at Head Office – the highlight of the newly launched four-part induction  process at the company.

As Angela Brown, Chair of the Partnership Council – the 45 member ‘face’ of employee ownership at Childbase Partnership  – explained, the realigned induction process goes much further than simply ‘how to do the job’, with an emphasis on individual belonging and thriving.

“Culture Day is about demonstrating that support for the individual extends further than each workplace and that employee voice and feedback is paramount in achieving the very best outcomes for the children in our care and for each other. It is also about myth-busting and putting faces to names of the people who support us,” she said.

In addition to Head Office support teams circulating during the chef prepared lunch, members of the senior team – Chairman, Chief Executive Officer and Operations Director – joined the new recruits to talk about their experience and encourage feedback.

The meal and sweet treats followed a morning focusing on, for example, company values – the five principles defining company identity and motivating everyone in common goals. The Values are the result of lengthy consultation and deliberation in each of the 45 settings in the company and not top-down decision-making.

Culture day – one a month at Head Office – is the culmination of a stream-lined, four-part process of induction that offers greater flexibility to appeal to individual learning styles and needs, with delivery by video, Zoom/team meetings, on-site and lastly at Head Office.

Pictured: Angela Brown, Partnership Council Chair, with Chef Emanuel and new partners.



We #EmbraceEquity for IWD 2023

International Women's Day

An employee perk that helps address period poverty in the UK is just one focus of International Women’s Day celebrations at the award-winning Childbase Partnership.

Freely available period products in each of the company’s 44-day nurseries and Head Office – over 2,500 items in 2021 alone – are matched in a ‘buy one, donate one’ partnership established in 2020 with Hey Girls, the award-winning period product social enterprise.

Reaching out to women in need, the boxes of environmentally friendly period products are distributed through women’s refuges, food banks, homeless shelters and others identified by 150 community organisations.

Flowers, treats and a focus on opportunities in the company marked setting-based celebrations in this year’s ‘Embrace Equity’ themed event which Emma Rooney, Chief Executive Officer – one of three women on the five-member main board at the employee-owned company – described as perfectly aligned with the Childbase approach.

“At Childbase Partnership we aim to give all colleagues, irrespective of gender, what they need to thrive and develop their career. Robust inductions and training plans unique to everyone, and a commitment to address practical needs and promote opportunity on an individual basis, ultimately levels ‘the playing field’ and means colleagues have the work experience and career they want, ” she said.

“A variety of forums – including the company’s Diversity Forum – enable colleagues to confidently voice their opinions and share their lived experiences. On-going reflection and action are a result of active listening ensures positive change. This is further reflected in the range of training, support and mentoring initiatives, and the courses available to meet a variety of learning styles through The Childbase Academy of Excellence,” she added.

Pictured below: Childbase Partnership main board directors (L-R): Justin Clubb, Finance, Lorna Wigley, Quality and Training, Louise Hill, Operations, Emma Rooney, Chief Executive Officer, Mike Thompson, Chairman/Founder.



The Childbase Academy launch – a £1.6 million investment in Apprenticeships

Childbase Partnership Academy Launch

Barista style refreshments on tap and chef-prepared home-cooked meals are just some of the perks for Apprentices taking award-winning training at The Childbase Academy of Excellence.

The official launch of the Academy at the Buckinghamshire headquarters of the employee owned, Childbase Partnership marks the completion of a £1.6 million investment to create inspiring learning environments and upscale wellbeing amenities.

Emma Rooney, Chief Executive Officer at Childbase Partnership, said of the 200 Apprentices from the company’s 44-day nurseries in the South of England currently undertaking studies:

“I want our Apprentices to be ambitious, so nothing is left to chance when it comes to securing the best possible outcomes for them at the beginning of their careers with us.

“Experienced and dedicated trainers and mentors delivering Princess Royal Award-winning training not only make for happy, confident practitioners in nursery but underpins the outstanding quality of our provision.” 

“As employee owners, we are all invested in each other and ensuring that the children in our care receive the best possible start in life. Talented, skilled and ambitious colleagues on clearly defined career paths will get us there,” she added.

The Academy’s modern bright learning environments and ‘chill out’ zones, invested with the latest technology, were officially dedicated by Frances Howell, HSBC Managing Director and Head of Corporate Banking, Midlands Region.

“This is the most imaginative building I‘ve seen in a very long time and a clear demonstration of your commitment to redefine excellence at every opportunity. This remarkable learning and working environment is a credit to you all and I thank you for the honour and privilege of dedicating this centre of excellence,” she said.

Currently, The Childbase Academy is committed to providing L3 Early Years Educators and L2 Early Years Practitioner courses to approximately 150 learners every year. In July a L3 Team Leading Apprentice course was introduced, and by the end of this year a L5 Early Years Lead Practitioner is being launched.

This in addition to the company’s extended learning platform, bespoke curriculum training and two annual Inset Days when nurseries close for whole team training to keep them up to date with the latest Early Years research and practices methods.

Recruitment – childbase (


Cedars Day Nursery - Leighton Buzzard

We prioritise the importance of outdoor play at Cedars Day Nursery in Leighton Buzzard. All children at our Ofsted-rated ‘Outstanding’ nursery have access to our large, natural garden area on a daily basis as we recognise the impact that being outdoors has on a child’s social, emotional and physical development. The children enjoy planting vegetables and tasting their produce, served by our dedicated Nursery Chef.

Cedars Day Nursery, Mentmore Rd, Leighton Buzzard LU7 2PA

Tel:  01525 850200