For many working mothers, finding full time Jewish childcare for their young children can be tricky, and this was definitely the case for fulltime working mum of 4, Odette Wohlman. Previously, she had sent her daughters to a full day non-Jewish nursery based over in Golders Green that served Kosher supervised food, but she felt that having something closer to her home in Essex, with a Jewish ethos, would be better for both her and her husband, Alan, and her children.
At two years old, her daughters attended a local Jewish nursery that operated from Wohl Ilford Jewish Primary School (WIJPS) in Barkingside. Unfortunately at the end of 2015 this nursery closed and there wasn’t another alternative, so along with her husband, they began to do some research and carried out a survey in the local area. From this information, it became evident that there was a need for a full day Jewish nursey and so they set about starting one in the area. Although, neither Odette nor her husband, Alan, had a background in education, they were very passionate about making this work, and were keen to find someone else who shared their enthusiasm for the idea.
That someone was Julia Maynard who with over 17 years’ experience in Early Years Education, and also the owner of her own Early Years recruitment agency, was the perfect partner. When the couple approached her about being involved and began to understand the need and reasoning behind the venture, she soon realised the potential. Julia explains, “Qualifying at a degree level in Leadership in Practice in Early Years equipped me with the knowledge to support my experience and focus on developing the best nursery possible and providing the best care.”
Julia along with her partner, Adeola, became directors with Odette and Alan and Excel Nurseries was formed. Planning started approximately two years ago and on the 2nd January this year, all of their hard work and planning paid off and Excel Nurseries opened its doors at Wohl Ilford Jewish Primary School, located on the Kantor Campus site in Barkingside, Ilford. Odette comments, “The response so far has been phenomenal, and everyone that is using the service has said how delighted they are to have a full day Jewish nursery; something that was very much needed in this area.”
The nursery offers childcare from 7.30am until 6pm all year round, which means parents working in Central London are able to drop their children off on the way to work for breakfast club, and can collect them on their way home without too much disruption to their normal working day. The Kantor Campus is well located as it is just 3 minutes walk to Fairlop Station. The nursery is open during the week, but naturally closes early on Fridays during the winter, and is not open on Yom Tovim. It offers spaces for children from birth to 4 years old, with a variety of sessions aimed to meet the needs of the parents. The morning session runs until 1pm, and the afternoon session is until 4pm which coincides with the end of the school day meaning that parents can collect siblings at the same time. The longest session is until 6pm.
The food provided at the nursery is Kosher, and the hot meals are prepared in the kitchen at Woodford Forest Synagogue by a fabulous catering team. Odette along with the rest of the catering team have been working on the menu based on feedback from the staff, parents and children, to ensure the meals are delicious and nutritional for the children.
One of the key aims of the nursery is to enhance Early Years education, and they are working closely with Wohl Ilford Jewish Primary School. As well as activities and crafts, there are also regular phonic classes to help children to develop a better understanding of the sounds of words and letters, which will help with reading and writing development. The hope is that every child will leave the nursery confident in recognising words and letters, setting them in good stead for when they begin school.
Ben Saltman, Chair of Governors at Wohl Ilford Jewish Primary School said “WIJPS have welcomed Excel Nurseries on to our campus and acting as a feeder for our school. It was vital to the school to find a partner with a long term commitment to providing a high quality level of education for local Jewish students in Redbridge with a matching ethos, and we believe we have found the ideal partner.”
There is an emphasis on Jewish education with pupils learning brachot for snacks and meals as well as other basic prayers and songs. They are currently recruiting for a Jewish Studies lead to help develop this area of the nursery further. The belief is that by having the nursery on the Kantor Campus, both the Jewish primary school, and the Jewish secondary school will both see an increase in students and benefit from a Jewish nursery acting as a feeder for them.
Parents like to be kept informed of their child’s progress throughout the day, and Excel Nurseries have invested in software that allows the parents to receive updates from the nursery team. At the end of each day, parents also receive a report showing activities completed, food they have eaten, when they have slept and even how many nappy changes, along with photos and videos to show how happy their child is. Julia explains, “This is a great way for the parents to connect directly and not feel like they are missing out, and it is all accessible on an App on their phones which makes it really easy to use.”
Odette and Alan are well-known for being a very community minded couple, and they are keen to give back to the community. They want to make a difference not only for their own children, but for other children and parents in the community and the area as a whole. Alan is so passionate about this that he has given up his role at Jewish Care to focus fulltime on Excel Nurseries.
Working with Julia has been a great experience for Odette, and she is really pleased with the way things are working. “Julia is so passionate and enthusiastic about the nursery and is truly amazing at what she does. As a director of the business, I am really proud of what we have all achieved so far.” She is also very grateful to those within the local community who have given their help and expertise in order to make this nursery a success.
Excel Nurseries have a unique approach that allows them to operate from both existing and new settings within both schools and communities to grow and provide for their families. The four directors pride themselves in supporting and developing local communities.
As well as being directors, both women, are parents first and foremost, and their children attend the nursery. Having this personal connection means that they are even more determined to make the nursery the best it can be, so that all the children that attend have the best start in life. Julia explains, “I am so proud of what we have achieved in a short period of time that benefits so many and I am determined to make Excel Nurseries a huge success.” They are aiming high in all areas of the nursery as Odette explains, “Our aim is to Be Brilliant and Be Outstanding in all that we and our children achieve”
If you would like to know more about Excel Nurseries, to place a child or support in an existing or new setting, please contact the team on 0333 344 3090 or visit our website