Nursery helps infrastructure charity to weather storms in funding, benefitting Hull residents from babies to older age

Rainbow Nursery is special. Not only does it offer all the services expected of a well-rated nursery, it’s also owned and operated by a local charity – Hull Community and Voluntary Services (Hull CVS). It’s a remarkable operation that’s having a great impact on Hull people, from babies and pre-schoolers, to those for whom childhood is a more distant memory! 

Rainbow Nursery is owned and operated by city charity Hull CVS.
Rainbow Nursery is owned and operated by city charity Hull CVS.

Claire Kinsley is Manager at the nursery.

“We’re a very homely nursery,” said Claire. “We’re in a converted, three-storey, Victorian house in a conservation area, surrounded by a lot of natural beauty.

“The most common comment parents make, when they come to have a look round, is that we have a warm and homely feel. We’re like home from home for a lot of the children and that helps them to settle in easily.”

Claire explained how demand for places at the nursery seems go in cycles and phases, but added: “At the moment we’re getting multiple phone calls every day, parents checking availability.

“Being in the Avenues area, in the Avenues community, it’s a very close-knit and friendly area, everyone knows somebody else, a lot of the parents that come through the door do so because they’ve received recommendations from our existing families and friends.”

The nursery has just over 50 places for children, welcoming them from as young as six weeks old, through to five years old, pre-school.

Situated in the heart of The Avenues area, west of the city centre, the nursery maintains good working relationships with the area’s primary schools, some of which are Ofsted rated ‘outstanding’.

Claire manages a staff team of 20 colleagues, with many years of experience between them.

“We are also just about to take on two new apprentices from East Riding College,” said Claire. “They’ll be starting in November and we’ll be taking them through their training, helping them to attain high standards of care.”

Claire feels that giving opportunities to apprentices is an important part of the nursery’s wider role. They have previously given places to three others.

“It’s good to help workforce development. ‘Early years’, the only way you’re going to learn it is hands-on. It can’t be taught only in a classroom, it’s being there and doing it. Learning to be a nursery practitioner is about getting into the thick of it,” said Claire.

The ‘thick of it’, the daily activities in this busy nursery setting, can be very varied.

“This year we’ve been growing tomatoes in our vegetable garden. This morning the children have been making different pies in our mud kitchen,” Claire laughs.

“We just love seeing the children learn and develop,” said Claire.

“We do ‘in the moment planning’. It’s about creating individual, spontaneous, activities and learning opportunities for the children. Children learn best if they’re really interested in what they’re doing.

“We let the children lead the play, and we facilitate that. The learning outcomes are much richer, and greater for the children.”

There’s another element to the nursery’s running that’s quite distinctive. The surplus funding that the nursery generates helps to finance Hull CVS’ other work – supporting the development of charitable and community activity across Hull.

Claire explained: “We are a charity-run nursery. Any money that we do make goes back into the community, supporting projects across the city. Each year our parent charity provides a range of services to hundreds of volunteers, charities and community organisations who dedicate themselves to making a difference to local communities across Hull.”

One project that has been supported, thanks to the funds the nursery generates, is Men in Sheds. Hull CVS was able to help Men in Sheds during the charity’s establishing phase. Now, demonstrating great community working, Men in Sheds have reciprocated the support, building the children at the nursery a model trawler to play in.

Jenny Jenkinson, Chief Officer at Hull CVS, further outlined the importance of the nursery to Hull CVS’ work: “It’s quite critical to our operation – the surplus generated by the nursery – because we can only support the third sector in the city by securing funding from multiple sources. The nursery provides us a substantial contribution to our work.

“Because the nursery is a business it’s not affected by any downturn in public funding. It’s something we can rely on. This reliability of funding allows us to employ development workers and guidance workers to help in the third sector locally.”

Hull CVS have been working to support the development of community projects in the city for 40 years. As an infrastructure body their role is to help voluntary sector projects to establish and operate in a way that delivers the best for their communities. For example, Hull CVS advises on safeguarding issues, helps to identify funding and grants for projects’ work, ensures projects meet their legal requirements, and offers a wide range of resources and training for volunteers and trustees.

Jenny added: “Currently we concentrate on giving our support to the very small charities and community groups in the city, those with typically less than £50K income per year, in fact the vast majority of the groups that come to us for support have less than £5K income each year. There are thousands of these groups in Hull.”

There are many examples in Hull of small groups popping up to do something great for their local communities or getting together to help those with particular needs.

“All of a sudden, for example, a group of neighbours down one street will get together because the children in that street have nowhere to play. They get together and start clearing a bit of waste ground, they start organising something for the children, and ‘hey presto’ we have another great community group who then start to look at how they can do even more. These are the groups that come to us for the support we can offer,” said Jenny.

This year, the Covid-19 pandemic has created a large swell in the number of people wanting to do something to help those being impacted by the virus. These potential volunteers have turned to Hull CVS to see how they can get involved in their communities.

“There were support mechanisms that needed to be put in place to help these people volunteer in the right areas,” said Jenny. “We’ve had a lot more involvement this year placing volunteers with foodbanks, buddying and befriending projects, delivering prescriptions, doing shopping – this year has been a lot more about mustering foot-soldiers, rather than supporting projects with infrastructure and legal frameworks. We’ve had to help more projects with how they manage these great volunteers.”

Jenny concluded: “The funds that Rainbow Nursery provides us, together with our other sustainable funding streams like room-hire and buildings, give us the resilience and freedom to be able to help all Hull’s grassroots projects.

“We don’t have to dance to the tune of the grant funders who prescribe what services they think are needed, we can help local projects to respond to the real needs of the communities we know so well.”

Website: Rainbow Nursery

Website: Hull Community and Voluntary Services

[Jerome Whittingham @photomoments for Hull CVS]