Hayley Walker wanted to work in early years education when she was a babysitter in her teens. But, until joining Thrive, she never dreamed she’d have the confidence to rise through the ranks of a national provider to become Regional Support Manager.
Hayley qualified as a level three nursery practitioner in 1997 at Salford City College and got her first taste of early years education when she joined a crèche. It was here that her knack for innovation confirmed her career choice was the right one.
She described: “It was very quiet in the week, so my colleagues and I decided to set up a special weekday playgroup for the children, which went down very well.”
Hayley was given the opportunity to put more of her skills to the test when she joined Thrive’s Holyrood Nursery in Swinton as a Practitioner. It was a new nursery, and she was able to take on several responsibilities that expanded her knowledge.
She said: “I ran the nursery’s first ever holiday club which was a huge responsibility. From there I was able to help manage multiple toddler rooms and learn more about different ages and their needs.”
Taking on a variety of duties helped Hayley progress to Senior Practitioner in 2004. Eight months later, she was offered the position of Deputy Nursery Manager.
She said: “I don’t think I would have had the confidence to apply if it weren’t for Thrive’s ongoing training.
“They book you on to any number of courses that you’re interested in through the local authority and also buddy you up with an experienced manager so you’re continually learning.”
Hayley achieved a level five nursery practitioner diploma while working at Holyrood Nursery and eventually progressed to Nursery Manager. In this role, she experienced some of the proudest moments of her career.
She said: “We had two Ofsted inspections during my ten years as Nursery Manager and in 2018 we achieved an Outstanding rating.”
“As any nursery practitioner will tell you, this is an incredibly difficult and satisfying thing to achieve, and a real testament to the hard work of my team.”
Just as Thrive supported her development, Hayley learned the value of having strong staff as a Nursery Manager and helping them progress. She said: “They are the backbone of what we do and get stuck in with everything.”
After ten years as Nursery Manager, Hayley felt on top of the world. However, this didn’t stop apprehension from setting in when the position of Regional Support Manager came up.
She said: “It is a huge jump with very different duties from those I was used to.”
It was looking unlikely that Hayley would take the plunge until her line manager, Andre Fallows, spoke with her in depth about the role and set up one-to-one learning sessions with other supervisors.
Hayley said: “Andre’s whole approach filled me with confidence. Although I love the day-to-day of running a nursery, I realised I wanted to be challenged.”
“You’re very much a role model to other Nursery Managers as Regional Support Manager as you’ve been there and know how to help, which is a great feeling.”
Now coming up to 20 years with Thrive, Hayley thinks back on her progression from Practitioner to Regional Support Manager and what all of her roles have had in common.
She said: “Thrive helps children thrive but they also enable adults to, not least because of how family orientated they are. My daughters have been able to come to work with me from the age of three months, and there aren’t many jobs that would allow that.
“This in addition to continuous training, personalised support and genuine care for what their staff are thinking and feeling.”
For others looking to advance their career in early years education, Hayley offers some advice:
“You don’t need me to tell you that it can be a rewarding yet challenging career, which is why it’s vital to surround yourself with a strong support group like Thrive that can help you reach your full potential.”