Staff benefits: University nurseries

Table with loose parts for creative play at University nursery

Kirsty Dunn, Manager at Bradmore Road, discusses the improvements being enjoyed by children, parents and staff at the University's five nurseries.

It doesn’t even feel like a job any more.  We’re all doing what we love doing and we’re really motivated to want to continue to become bigger and better. 

How long have you been working for the Oxford University nurseries, Kirsty? 

I’ve been here for nine years now. I started off as a nursery assistant, curious to see how I would be suited to a childcare role, and very quickly discovered that I loved it. I then went through the qualification process at Oxford Brookes and have worked my way up since. I was delighted to be appointed as the Nursery Manager at Bradmore Road this June; it’s a very exciting time for me. 

Bradmore Nursery - autumn activity

We noted that Kids Planet took over management of our University nurseries in July this year – how are you finding the change? 

It’s really amazing! I can’t imagine a more perfect place for me to work. Kids Planet are completely invested in providing the time and resources to facilitate an environment that helps to develop the children who attend their nurseries – and the staff who work in them.  

It doesn’t even feel like a job any more.  We’re all doing what we love doing and we’re really motivated to want to continue to become bigger and better.

That’s quite a statement – what’s changed? 

Group of scarecrows made by children at Bradmore Nursery

Lots! We’re encouraged to think about what we want to bring into the nurseries for the children to learn from. A particularly recent success was a vintage telephone with a dial from a charity shop. It’s been great to watch the children try to figure out how to use it.   

We don’t have many plastic toys in the nurseries now. They’ve been replaced with lots of loose parts – including pebbles and fossils, shells, pine cones and pieces of wood. Watching them explore objects from the real world and use them for imaginative play is great.  

The objects spark up some really interesting conversations and interactions too. We recently had a themed week and

provided the children with materials to build scarecrows and left them to it. Some children knew what a scarecrow was, others didn’t. They quickly learnt from each other and worked collaboratively to create them. 

Kids Planet are also happy to invest time in risk assessments to enable us to do more things safely that offer great learning opportunities. It’s the little things that can make a big difference, such as using real fruit and veg for role play. 

How do your team feel? 

Bradmore Nursery staff yoga session

We feel supported and valued, which means that team morale is great. Training is encouraged and it’s possible for trainees to study in-house after work, so they have the benefit of full-time experience and salary, rather than the usual route of working part- time alongside studying at college. 

We also know that Kids Planet care about our wellbeing. I was recently able to surprise my team with a yoga session at a staff meeting – a bonus was learning some exercises suitable to do with the children, too. 

How’s the feedback from parents? 

Very positive. Safeguarding and protection has always been at the heart of everything we do and confidence remains high. However, one of the biggest changes is the new Parentzone app which provides a live feed.

Photos and updates sent throughout a session allow parents to see evidence of their children enjoying themselves, rather than just being told that they’ve had a good day when they come to collect them. For parents of young babies it’s very reassuring to be advised when they’ve just had a feed or to be kept updated with how they’re sleeping.

The app is very much welcomed by all and is also proving very useful for monitoring progress and areas for development. 

Do you have a favourite place in Oxford? 

I love University Parks – I find it very calming to walk through there and enjoy whatever the season offers, and handily it’s just around the corner from the nursery. I also love the houses near the nursery – some of them are out of this world. 

Squirrel in University Parks

After a day at work, what do you like to do to relax? 

I’m currently expecting my first baby, so all the usual things that encourage relaxation are particularly welcomed at the moment. And as I’m very family orientated, I really enjoy spending time with my family members. And that’s actually the vibe I want us to have at the nursery – that we’re all one great big happy family. 

  • The University has five nurseries across Oxford all operated by Kids Planet. Part-time and full-time places are available for all staff and students of the collegiate University. The nurseries offer discounted fee rates in addition to the option to pay by salary sacrifice, if eligible, which provides further savings.  
  • There are also places available in an additional ten community nurseries across Oxfordshire, which also offer the option to pay fees by salary sacrifice.  
  • If you’re interested in finding out more about our nurseries please visit our pages on the University website