It is with great pleasure we can reveal that our CEO Clare Roberts has been awarded an OBE for services to education!
Having had to keep it a secret for several months, Clare’s award of an OBE was announced while she was in a restaurant in Portugal and she is pleased to now be able to share this news and celebrate with the Kids Planet family.
We sat down with Clare to find out about the award and the role she plays within the early years sector.
I’m very humbled by it and grateful for everyone’s support and congratulations. I hope what it demonstrates is that if you work hard and you’re determined, you do get recognised. If someone had asked me as an 18-year-old if I’d have received something like this, I would have laughed.
So I think it shows that people should always have courage and focus, as anyone can achieve anything. You don’t have to be an Einstein or a straight-A student, you just need to find something you’re passionate about that gives you a purpose.
I think it will be an amazing experience and an honour to go to the palace and receive the award. I feel that it’s not just a ‘me’ achievement in terms of also belonging to my family and the whole of Kids Planet.
Yes, it is me who has been named and awarded, but I see it as an award for everyone within our company and we should all be celebrating. Ultimately, I have a very different role from the one I had a long time ago. The staff in the nurseries are the ones who do the really hard work every day, which is looking after the children, and I mean that sincerely.
My parents and sister are also involved in the business – so I’m very pleased for them. And for my daughters as well, it’s important I’m a positive role model for my daughters to show that they can achieve anything and should never feel held back.
When I launched Kids Planet in 2008, all I was mostly thinking about was my own childcare issues. I couldn’t have foreseen being a company of this size, or having the voice in the sector that I do, that people listen to. I think it’s important that those who do have a voice use it in the right way, to share experiences and speak up, and that’s something I’ve always done no matter what sector I had been in.
I’ve always felt passionate that high-quality childcare should be available to all, and this is one of the reasons why our settings are in a real mixture of places. It shouldn’t just be that those who have money get those experiences, it should be available to everyone. There’s a real sense that children who attend early years settings get really solid foundations which lead to a better quality of life.
My role extends from just Kids Planet though, and a large part of what I do, no one sees. One of the reasons I think I have been awarded the OBE is that I sit on a lot of policy forums with DFE, Ofsted, and the NDNA, and attend APPG meetings with parliament. In those meetings, the focus is on what wider support the sector needs.
I’m very aware of all the challenges faced by the early years sector and I try and do my best to make it better, although it’s a difficult tide to turn for us all.
Over the last two years, as a collective group within the early years, we’ve all come together and spent a lot of time trying to navigate a way through Covid and work out legislation.
From being on policy forums and attending the APPG meetings with parliament, we looked at how to get MPs to support early years in the best way. I always try and be true to who I am and speak the truth; I say things how I see them and think it is incredibly important to challenge things.
I feel a real sense of responsibility to try and support others, especially as a large group. We have a lot of experiences in changes within policy or changes to inspection through Ofsted, and I see it as a duty to share those experiences so that it improves the sector as a whole but also to give feedback, so that between ourselves it is a collaboration and we can try to make the early years better.
Looking forward, our sector is in really challenging times and Covid has been hard to navigate. There are recruitment challenges due to Covid and Brexit that have really impacted our sector and I think the government need to step up and support the sector more as maybe they are not fully understanding how challenging it is.
Not only that, I think there are changes that need to come in to look at how we can get young people into the sector and looking at ways that people can convert qualifications in a faster way.
But for me, it’s still about doing a great job, the same as it was 14 years ago. It’s about building a place in the early years sector that wants to get the best for the children and our families.
You build a team around you, and as you grow, you can scale up and it makes things possible. I think we’ve been truly fortunate that a lot of people who are here now, were here at the beginning of the Kids Planet journey. That gives you a lot of confidence.
For details about all of our Kids Planet nurseries, please visit our Find a Nursery page.