Sam Blakeman is proud of her dedicated workforce of mums at Small Explorers pre-school. As a sign of appreciation, the nursery owner is flying the flag for flexible working with the help of Successful Mum’s GLA Parenting Project.

“Looking back on my career, I can clearly recall how difficult it was to juggle work and be a mum; early childcare drop-offs to make it into the office on time, missed sports days and the constant guilt of not being around for my three children as much as I wanted to be.

When I set up my business six years ago, I knew I wanted to do things differently and ensure that my staff do not face the same challenges that I did.

Just before Christmas last year I was off work with COVID. Emma from Successful Mums Training Academy reached out to tell me about their GLA Parenting Project, which works with forward-thinking employers to embrace flexibility and diversity by encouraging more parents into their workforces. As a community nursery, we already attract a high proportion of local mums who are looking to get back into work. The majority of my workforce are mums who’ve had children attend the nursery and I have supported them in to their roles with work experience, apprenticeships and training. The goals and values of Successful Mums really align with my own which made me really keen to sign up to the project.

Nursery workers can’t work from home – it’s not an option – we have to be physically present to care for the children. As a result, we have to embrace other ways of flexible and supportive working. When the pandemic hit, I used it as an opportunity to reflect on my business; I laid everything out on my dining room table and went through it bit by bit. Shifts are structured to suit individual circumstances, accommodating school drop-offs and other childcare factors. Now, with the help of Successful Mums, I am implementing further supportive measures for my staff.

“The GLA Parenting Project is really empowering. As a business owner, it’s very reassuring completing the training modules and knowing that you are doing things right. And, for those who aren’t as forward-thinking, Successful Mums are there to support with information and training and help move them in the right direction.”

Sam Blakeman

As part of the GLA Parenting Project, you have to complete mandatory training modules. I went through these while I recovered from COVID and really enjoyed each and every one. I love to learn and found all of the topics very interesting. It was great to recap on all of my existing mental health and wellbeing knowledge and I finished the course feeling reassured that we are doing things correctly at Small Explorers.

Successful Mums also offered the team free accredited training and they snapped up the chance to sign up for the Autism Awareness workshop. Free training is a rarity so we feel very lucky to have been given this opportunity. The workshop has made a massive impact; we’ve always looked after children with autism at Small Explorers but now the staff have a better understanding of autism and how we can be autism-friendly within the nursery. I’m now looking forward to completing the training myself.

We were also given access to family-friendly policy templates to adapt and utilise. As a team, many of us are women over 40, so the-game changer for Small Explorers was the menopause policy!

The policy has been very well received and we also held a training session at the nursery to tackle the issue head-on and foster a supportive and inclusive environment for everyone. My team are very close – like a family – so we can be open and honest with one another if we are having a difficult day. I also provide wellbeing boxes at work that contain sweet treats, tampons and other items to show I care and value my team.

From September I will only be at the nursery one day a week as I am returning to teaching as a health and social care lead. It feels like the right time knowing that the team are in a good place and we are promoting a positive and supportive work culture. I am now looking to recruit a deputy manager to take the lead when I’m not there. We are just a little community pre-school with very little spare cash for marketing so it is great that we can advertise the role for free on the Successful Mums jobs board – another great perk of the project!

I feel really fortunate to have met Jane, the founder of Successful Mums, and been given this amazing opportunity. I love Jane’s ethos and her values really align with my own. She recently came to a stay and play session at our nursery and some of the mums who attended have now signed up to complete their career courses.

The GLA Parenting Project is really empowering. As a business owner, it’s very reassuring completing the training modules and knowing that you are doing things right. And, for those who aren’t as forward-thinking, Successful Mums are there to support with information and training and help move them in the right direction.”

If you are interested in implementing flexible working practices in your workplace and would like to know more about our FREE GLA Parenting Project, please contact Lisa Green, Employer and Recruitment Co-ordinator at lisag@successfulmums.co.uk or 020 3633 9672.