On Monday 13th June, guests including nursery staff, University staff and members of the Chris Abell family, attended an opening event held at the Kids Planet Chris Abell nursery on Harrison Drive, off Hills Road.
The Chris Abell Day Nursery was named after Professor Chris Abell, who died unexpectedly in October 2020. Chris was Chair of the Nursery Project Board, which he led with tenacity and enthusiasm and was instrumental in the University successfully commencing construction of the new nursery.
Following a rigorous tender process, Kids Planet was selected to run the daily operations of the Chris Abell nursery at the University of Cambridge. The expansion into Cambridge marks Kids Planet’s sixth nursery in the South of the UK and part of a growing group of 120 nurseries.
The opening event began with a toast and several speeches from Stephen Toope, Vice-Chancellor, Daniel Abell, Chris Abell’s son, Clare Roberts, CEO of Kids Planet, and Nicky Blanning, Chair of the Staff Childcare Committee.
Following the speeches, Clare Roberts and the Vice Chancellor cut the ribbon, getting photos of the formal opening, and there was then a performance by the 3-4 year old pre-school children.
There was a buffet and plenty of refreshments before two of the preschool children helped the Vice-Chancellor cut the cake, and the event drew to a close after small groups took tours of the nursery facility.
Clare Roberts, Founder and CEO at Kids Planet, said:
“We’re absolutely thrilled to be here today and this is such a beautiful setting. I’ve been in many nurseries as you can imagine over the years and this is a true testament to Chris – whilst I never met him, this is the most beautiful, well thought out nursery I’ve ever been in and the attention to detail is really clear.
Were delighted to have been selected by the University of Cambridge to be the partner delivering childcare here and want to build on the legacy that Chris has left behind. We look forward to welcoming many families within the University, as we move forward together.”
Professor Stephen Toope, Vice-Chancellor, said:
“We know there is a great need for early childhood education in Cambridge, and this is true for the families of members of the University, so it was essential that this space be opened. Chris was an incessant advocate for the building of this nursery, so it’s so appropriate that we are naming it the Chris Abell nursery.
Post pandemic, early childhood supports are more important than ever. It is important to recognise Chris’s determination, and that of everyone else involved. It’s been a long-term commitment to building facilities for the University community, and that commitment will continue.”
Daniel Abell, son of Chris Abell, said:
“Alongside his passion for learning and research, Chris really believed in the power of bringing people together. He did this in many ways during his time at the University, at first through research collaborations and then with his work with Stephen and the childcare committee. In those final years serving the University, he championed courses that were especially meaningful to him, often focused on areas where the University could support its staff better.
Chris was personally involved in this project, bringing his challenge and diligence to this, just as he did to so many other things in the University, determined to leave it a better place for many decades to come. Earlier this year, my mother and I paid a visit to the nursery just as it was starting out, establishing its presence, opening its doors, and I was really impressed by the generous, open, bright spaces, and the warmth which the building and staff seemed to wrap every child in.
A nursery is really our first experience as humans of coming together as a community with others to share experiences, so it seems fitting that this is one of the ways in which my father will be remembered – bringing people together. I’m tremendously grateful to the University, which has worked so hard to make this possible. I want to show our appreciation, and I look forward to seeing it flourish.”
The new purpose-built nursery provides childcare for the children of University staff and students. The nursery is open from 8am to 6pm Monday to Friday. Daily operations are run by Kids Planet but applications must be made via the University Childcare Office website.