Maureen's Blog For Ask Askew

 My blogs aim to provide childcare business owners and managers with relevant business and childcare related information.

I am a Business Consultant specialising in the childcare sector. I am an active member of the Chartered Management Institute, Institute of Consulting, Federation of Small Businesses and the Chamber of Commerce.

I have been a Chartered Manager since 2007 I am also a 4Children Business Champion. I write feature articles for 2 childcare/family magazines, on issues that are of interest to families and childcare providers. I have been involved in childcare for over 35 years.

A life time ago starting with my NNEB training, I then became a registered Childminder, owned and managed pre-schools and full day care, worked as a paid employee and volunteer for the Pre-school Learning Alliance, delivered qualification and short childcare courses in FE colleges across Lancashire and North Yorkshire and worked as part of the early year’s teams at Blackburn with Darwen and Bolton LA for over 15 years. 

I started Ask Askew in 2011, although I mainly work for myself, I do work as an associate for the NDNA, CBIS and EYalliance (previously the Pre-school Learning Alliance). 


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Building or operating a privately owned day care nursery on a school site

Having had some experience of this situation, I would like to offer a word of caution; there are several options available to you 

1. Using unused space within the school building or site - The Schools core purpose is to provide statutory education for children following their 5thbirthday, which usually means the term after they turn 4. The birth rate is predicted to increase over the next 6- 10 years and any currently unused space may be required to meet core purpose, this would most likely result in notice being given. It’s also likely you would be required to return the space to its original condition.

2 If you open a nursery in a building owned by the school on a school site, apart from the above you may have problems when you want to sell the business, the school /governors/ diocese may want to approve potential buyers, which could limit your market

3. If you are planning on building on school land; this is possible if a need for a nursery has been identified and space is available; be prepared for protracted discussions with the governing body, school, planning departments, LA etc.   It is unlikely the land will be sold, you will probably have to lease the land; the owners could be the LA, the school, the diocese or any combination. It’s not uncommon for the LA to own one area of the land and the diocese or school another, so you could have to undertake discussions with all parties.  

4. There are very complex rules about ownership of buildings when a lease expires, you could find you don’t actually own the building even though you actually built it, always seek professional advice before you make any decisions.

Problems can also occur with  the lease  when or if you decide you would like to sell the business ; for example  if the lease is for  50 years  (although you would really want a 99 year lease, this can sometimes to difficult  to get agreement for), and you want to sell after say 25 /30 years the value of the nursery will be diminished as there is no guarantee  the lease would be extended beyond  the original term, which means the new buyer may have difficulty selling the nursery on.  The lease needs to written very carefully and worded to ensure any remaining term can be passed to a new buyer.  Remember Head Teachers, governing bodies and LA representatives change/ move on as do priorities, governments and legislation.  Any agreements / minutes of any meetings before, during and after the set up of the childcare, need to be very very clear and detailed, so that they can not be misinterpreted by  anyone reading them 5, 10 or even 20 years down the line.

5. There are instances where private business operating childcare on/from school premises has found that working with trustees, governing bodies and Head Teachers difficult due to conflicting priorities.

Just to clarify working with schools can be very rewarding but it can be a minefield to the uninitiated, whether that’s nursery owners, Head teachers, trustees or governing bodies.  

6. Opening a nursery near to a school and linking to a school could well be an option to be carefully considered.