Acorn Childcare began as a single nursery in 1989 in the village of Castlethorpe – near Milton Keynes – where the organisation is still led by the founder and Chief Executive, Zoë Raven.
We are a not-for-profit organisation and has several nurseries in Milton Keynes and Northamptonshire, as well as a variety of out-of-school clubs and Forest Schools. Zoë is supported by a friendly and professional team who all share her passion for providing the very best individual care for your child.
We believe that childcare needs a personal touch; our nurseries reflect this offering individuality with a family-friendly feel, combined with professionalism and quality facilities. To offer the flexibility of a homely setting we restrict the size of our nurseries.
Acorn places a strong emphasis on the professional development of our early years’ practitioners, and encourages a learning culture throughout the organisation. Outdoor learning and creative play are key features in all of our provisions and our not-for-profit ethos means that the needs of the children come first, all of the time.
The Acorn ethos
‘Putting children first’ is one way we sum up our ethos in our nurseries, and we have developed the following core values which all our staff follow and work to achieve:
• Personal in that we communicate informally and at a personal level and strive to avoid bureaucratic processes. We treat children and staff as individuals and develop friendly and supportive relationships with families and aim to create homely environments. Personalised care and education is at the heart of our provision, and we believe that the children’s happiness, fun and laughter are key ingredients for successful provision.
• Professional in that we continually seek to develop the knowledge, skills and qualifications of our staff team. We are a learning organisation that is at the forefront of improving the quality of our childcare practice, through training and development of our people and through action research. We set high standards for professional conduct and practice and aim to achieve excellence in all areas.
• Nurturing children’s development and wellbeing as individuals is our primary focus, taking a holistic approach, putting children’s needs first, and employing staff who genuinely love working with children. Our food is freshly prepared, locally sourced where possible, and healthy eating is a key part of our focus on wellbeing for children and staff. We provide children the opportunity to learn through first-hand experiences wherever possible.
• Outdoor learning and play in natural environments is promoted as an essential part of our provision, through Forest Schools and at each site. We encourage the use of natural materials and resources, aim to adopt green practices throughout the organisation and encourage each site to grow their own fruit and vegetables, and to experience the natural world all year round.
• Ethical, as a charitable organisation which puts children before profit and aims to be inclusive and sustainable, both environmentally and financially. We seek excellence, honesty and integrity in all aspects of our work.
We have a number of trustees responsible for the running of the social enterprise, bringing a wealth of knowledge and experience – from across a number of sectors – to our organisation. Each of our trustees serve for a period of three years:
Ruth Stone, (Chair of Trustees)
Ruth spent over 30 years working in the charitable sector in a range of executive and non-executive roles, including being trustee and vice chair of a large national charity, and a range of community groups. Ruth recently retired, but for the last 15 years of her career she was CEO of Community Action: MK, the local umbrella organisation for over 1200 not-for-profit organisations.
Carolyn Norfolk (Trustee)
Carolyn joined Acorn as a Trustee in July 2017 bringing a wealth of knowledge and expertise on VAT legislation. After receiving a 1st Class BA (Hons) in International Relations, Carolyn has spent the last 13 years at PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, most recently as VAT Senior Manager and in her previous career trained through a graduate scheme with HM Customs and Excise. Carolyn is also an ex-parent of Acorn’s Day Nursery in Shenley.
Hannah Evans (Trustee)
Hannah is a current parent of two children (Acorn and a Squirrel) at our Castlethorpe nursery and took on the role of a trustee in July 2017. Hannah is also an experienced Finance Manager, working at IG Design Group plc since June 2017 and previous to this worked as an ERP and Group Finance Manager at Domino’s Pizza Group plc where she worked since May 2011. Prior to this, Hannah spent seven years at PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP specialising in corporate tax. Hannah holds a BsC from the University of Northampton in Maths and Psychology.
Katy Boyd (Trustee)
Katy received a Bsc (Hons) from the University of Loughborough in Psychology and Social Science and used this to enter the graduate scheme at John Lewis Partnership in 2004. Since then, Katy has developed a wealth of commercial, personnel and project management experience and is currently Operations Manager, Commercial Support with John Lewis Partnership. Katy is also a current parent of Acorn at our Castlethorpe nursery and has been a trustee with Acorn since July 2017.
Giles Chilton (Trustee)
Giles joins Acorn with vast experience in Project Management and a keen interest in analysis of social impact and the ability to co-generate value. Having gained a Bsc (Hons) in Engineering as well as a Post-Graduate Certificate in Business Leadership, Giles has worked in the rail industry for 16 years, now leading complex railway operations IT projects.
Professor Dr Eva Lloyd OBE (Trustee)
Eva is professor of Early Childhood in the Cass School of Education and Communities at the University of East London and Director of its International Centre for the Study of the Mixed Economy of Childcare (ICMEC), which she co-founded in 2007 with Professor Helen Penn. Her research and academic publications focus on international early education and childcare policies, particularly for disadvantaged children. She has held honorary positions at the University of Cambridge and the Queen’s University Belfast and in 2017 spent a semester as Visiting Professor at the University of Muenster, Germany. Eva has wide experience of providing expert policy advice to national and international government departments. She co-authored a range of government commissioned studies and evaluations and is currently on the team evaluating the 30 hours free childcare policy’s implementation in England.
Narendra Laljani (Trustee)
Narendra Laljani is a management educator, consultant, and CEO coach who specialises in strategic thinking, innovation, execution, the challenges of building market-focused organisations and leader development. Narendra has undertaken management development projects for a diverse range of clients and has consulted at board level with a large number of international organisations. Narendra studied economics followed by a postgraduate degree in management with a concentration on finance. He started his career with ICI and worked with the multinational for 15 years, in a range of general management roles in the UK, Belgium and India. He has a doctorate from Cranfield, was Dean of Graduate Studies at Ashridge Business School for five years, and is an Executive Fellow at Henley Business School and Professor of Practice in Strategy at Ashridge Executive Foundation.