Business support for childcare providers

​Whether your setting is private, voluntary, independent or in the maintained sector, we can offer business support.

Choose one of the options below to find out more about growing and managing your childcare business.

How can I create a business plan?

Drafting a business plan does not have to be a complex process. The list below explains the key areas that a plan should include:

Business plan format

Include an introductory page at the front of the plan to provide all of the necessary contact details including names of key personnel, addresses, telephone, fax, mobile numbers, email addresses and a web page address if applicable.

1. Executive summary

The executive summary should be your sales pitch of the plan. It should be written in such a way as to encourage the reader to want to read on. It should contain a brief summary of the reasons why the plan has been drafted comprising 5 or 6 paragraphs at most and it should fit ideally on to 1 page of A4 paper. The paragraphs should “cherry pick” the key points from the plan and could cover areas such as:

  • the purpose of the plan
  • setting services
  • the market opportunity
  • the management team
  • details of track record to date, if any
  • financial projections
  • funding requirements, if any

If this is a finance raising business plan please state in paragraph 1 of the executive summary how much you are seeking, what the money is for and what kind of finance you think might be the most appropriate.

2. Background and history

Include a brief potted history stating when the setting was formed and outline any key moments in the past. Key moments could include times of fluctuating performance, changes of key personnel, actions taken etc. In summary brief comments explaining how the setting has progressed from where it started to where it is today.

3. Objectives and strategy

a) Objectives

Provide bullet points detailing the setting's objectives to cover the next 3 years. For example:

  • to grow the setting occupancy by x% per annum over the next 3 years
  • to expand childcare provision to capitalise on an identified opportunity in the locality
  • to improve the staff costs to income ratio from x% to y%.

b) Strategy

Provide further bullet points stating the key elements of the setting’s strategy i.e. what will the setting do in order to achieve the above objectives? What are the reasons why this particular course has been chosen?

4. Setting services

What services are offered currently and what changes, if any, are planned for the future? In particular:

  • how many places are offered for each setting?
  • what is the current occupancy level?
  • comments on recent Ofsted reports
  • brief details of the premises, staffing and key operational issues
  • any other comments if appropriate and relevant

5. Local demand for childcare

The paragraphs covering the executive summary, the local demand for childcare, the management team and the financial summary are generally the most important elements of most business plans. Within this paragraph you need to demonstrate your knowledge of the local area and the need for childcare in that area and the fact that your setting will be and will continue to be successful. Commentary could include:

  • key research information on the local demand for childcare
  • details of current providers in the locality
  • details of how quality is measured
  • critical success factors. What is it about the setting’s services that are so special? This could be for example its location, quality of service, lack of competition and facilities offered
  • the benefits and drawbacks of the current location

Include a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis for the setting. Typical areas and examples to cover are:

5.1 Strengths

Below are some typical examples of setting strengths which might help. Some may not apply to your setting; there may also be other strengths which do apply that are not covered:

  • positive cash flow
  • growing income and profitability
  • a good local reputation and strong brand name
  • an established customer base
  • quality services
  • good or excellent Ofsted report
  • management strength
  • the ability to make quick decisions
  • good motivation and morale
  • efficient administration
  • skilled employees and effective training and development
  • good premises and equipment

5.2 Weaknesses

Some typical examples follow.

  • losses incurred leading to poor cash flow
  • undercapitalised
  • poor or unacceptable Ofsted rating
  • unresponsive attitudes to customer requirements
  • high child turnover
  • high staff turnover
  • strong local competition
  • poor planning and monitoring
  • failure to delegate appropriately and train successors
  • expertise locked up in a few key personnel
  • inability to take outside advice
  • poor location and run down premises
  • outdated equipment

5.3 Opportunities

Some typical examples of opportunities are listed below:

  • deterioration in a competitor’s performance
  • improved access to potential new customers and markets. For example new housing in the area
  • word of mouth recommendations from existing parents
  • the introduction of sound financial backing
  • political, legislative or regulatory change
  • economic trends
  • social developments

5.4 Threats

Some typical examples of threats are listed below:

  • improved services from local competitors
  • key personnel leaving
  • lenders reducing credit lines
  • rent reviews
  • legal action
  • political, legislative or regulatory change
  • economic trends
  • social developments
  • new technology

6. Sales and marketing

Key issues listed below are centred around how you will market and raise awareness for your setting. Some issues to consider are:

  • is the setting high quality and high price?
  • has the setting got a good or excellent Ofsted rating?
  • what unique selling features do you have, if any?
  • explain how price sensitive your services are
  • look at each service offered
  • identify where you will make your profits and where there is scope to increase margins or sales
  • what kind of marketing has been or will be undertaken? This could include for example; direct marketing, advertising, PR. Explain which method you will be using and why it is right for your setting
  • what level of selling activity will be done and does this relate to the planned increase in sales levels?

7. Organisation and management

This is another crucial area of the business plan. It is the quality of the management team that will drive the business and ensure that it achieves its objectives. Don’t hold back, if you have skills then state them clearly here. Brief paragraph summaries are suggested below with reference to full CVs, if provided, in the appendices:

  • details of the setting's structure with comments
  • key personnel details to include background, skills, experience and achievements to date. (Essentially mini CVs to explain why these key people are going to achieve the setting’s objectives)
  • details of any recruitment or training plan with time scales and costs

8. Financial performance

The plan should contain 2 years’ historical accounts, if available, together with forecasts to cover at least 2 years ahead. The forecasts should include predictions of future income and expenditure and cash flow if possible. If any help is needed with preparing the forecasts then please contact Richard Ellis at Northamptonshire County Council. Contact details are provided below.

In this section you are adding your comments to the recent figures and you should specifically address:

  • any recent trends in income, costs and profits generated or losses incurred
  • commentary on the forecasts for, at least, 2 years ahead including the underlying assumptions. Specifically state how the predicted income will be achieved and how costs will be managed
  • consider including a sensitivity analysis for example; what happens if occupancy levels fall by 10%
  • Comment on any financial requirement that has been identified and how this will be funded

9. Typical appendices

Include any supplementary information which does not form part of the main plan. It is not essential to include anything here but do so if you believe that it strengthens your case. Information that you might include could be:

  • management CVs
  • market research data
  • product literature examples
  • other summaries relevant to the proposal

​Once your business plan has been written and clear plans have been set out for the future, financial forecasts can then be drafted which summarise, in financial terms, what this will mean for your setting.

Financial planning and control can be split into 3 key areas:

1. Budgeting

  • setting targets for income and expenditure for the next 12 months
  • income forecasts will normally start from information such as planned opening hours,
    the number and ages of the children likely to attend and fee income rates
  • cost forecasts will be calculated from the number of staff needed, their hourly rates, hours worked, rent and rates payable
  • ultimately the budget set will generate a profit and loss forecast

2. Financial forecasts

Profit and loss forecasts

  • summarise the income and expenditure likely for the setting for 2 to 3 years ahead
  • income is shown when it is earned by services offered, costs are included as they relate to that income and so a monthly forecast and annual profit or loss can be predicted

Cash flow forecasts

  • these are related to the profit and loss forecasts but instead of forecasting income and expenditure they predict when the cash is likely to be received into and paid out of the
    setting’s bank account
  • the bottom line of a cash flow forecast predicts what is likely to happen to the setting’s bank balance
  • good cash flow forecasting is crucial to make sure that the setting does not run out of cash

3. Monitoring performance

  • as part of the budgeting process you are setting targets for what should be achieved
  • with monitoring performance you are comparing actual levels of income and expenditure with the forecast, investigating and correcting any variances, feeding back the results and if necessary, amending the plan

​Funding may be available to support settings which are experiencing temporary financial hardship provided that the setting can demonstrate that:

  • the problems are short term
  • the underlying business model is sound
  • there is a need for childcare places in the area

All settings applying for this assistance must have been established for at least 12 months and have a satisfactory or better Ofsted rating.

For further information please contact us and ask for the Early Years and Childcare Workforce Development Team.

What resources are there to help my out of school provision?

If you are considering opening:

  • a breakfast club
  • an after school club
  • a holiday scheme

in Northamptonshire, our area support officers can help.

Contact our area support officers at: EarlyYearsImprovement@northamptonshire.gov.uk

Below you will find some tools that support best practice in your out of school club. These are not compulsory, however, they will help you in identifying any areas that may need developing:

Inclusion
For advice and information on supporting a child with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) in out of school provisions, please contact your Area Support Officer or email:

EarlyYearsImprovement@northamptonshire.gov.uk

There are a variety of resources available to support children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) on the Early Years page, which can also be utilised for older children

OOS SEND checklist(Word 42.9KB)

Risky play leaflets

By working in partnership with Playlink and Playwork Partnerships we have created the following information leaflets:

Playwork

Breakfast club bulletin

Do you run or have a breakfast club on your school site?

This bulletin provides you with ideas and photos from other breakfast club settings from around the county.

A best practice focus on breakfast clubs

Breakfast Clubs - what should they look like?
These should be atmospheric, welcoming and fun places to be with nutritious and enjoyable breakfast menus on offer. They should have areas for breakfasting with additional unstructured informal play spaces. Breakfast clubs should be fun, sociable, non regimented sessions – full of noise, crumbs and playing children. Staff should be there to support children’s independence with delivery of both breakfast and play.

Quality
As a minimum standard, the person on duty and responsible for the day to day running of the breakfast club should hold:

  • An up to date paediatric first aid certificate
  • A food hygiene certificate
  • Have relevant safeguarding awareness and knowledge
  • Engage in Playwork CPD or have an up to date knowledge of this
  • We also recommend that breakfast clubs alone follow the requirements of the Ofsted Voluntary Register as closely as possible

It is also recommended that:

  • A minimum of 2 members of staff should always be supervising
  • The setting should hold a daily register of children attending
  • If the breakfast club is unregistered, as minimum there should be policies on:
    • admissions and bookings
    • safeguarding – to include child protection
    • managing allegations, fire policy and evacuation procedure
    • relevant health and safety
    • healthy food and drink 
    • play

Please speak to your Area Support Officer if you require any support with any of the above.

Information should be displayed to parents detailing:

  • breakfast menus
  • tax credits
  • any notifications

Childcare, sustainability and business support
Contrary to popular belief, breakfast clubs play an important part in working parents' and carers' everyday childcare needs. Tax credits (depending on eligibility) help parents and carers to pay an affordable fee for childcare - helping to keep your provision sustainable. If you are Ofsted registered or school managed and don’t already promote this, it maybe worthwhile displaying some information about this on your notice board. You will need to display either your Ofsted URN or school DfE number.

Play

Breakfast clubs fall into the category of out of school childcare and should subscribe to offering playwork practice. Freely chosen play should be on offer and flexibility of choice as opposed to "activities” or formal structure.

For some high impact and low cost quality play opportunities for children at your breakfast club, try:

  • Cardboard boxes – various sizes, masses of play value - can be anything – a spaceship, a den, a robot - easily accessible and always available.
  • Large sheets of fabric – gain lots of play value and instant impact, various sizes, colours and thickness: can be dens, capes and dressing up and screens and zones.
  • Items for dressing up – ask parents for contributions in a newsletter; hats, wigs, shoes, clothes, accessories, multi-cultural clothing - a suitcase full of these are a brilliant resource and really valuable play opportunity to have!
  • Think about utilising what’s already available at your setting and the broader provision: for example., if you're a school or pre-school putting a sand or water tray from reception in one day, or using up any left over play or salt dough for breakfast club the next day – older children often don’t have these experiences post reception and year one but really enjoy them and they make for great quick play opportunities in short spaces of time.
  • Don’t rule out paint and messy play for mornings – keep it simple: water colour paints, play dough, spaghetti etc - provide aprons (men’s shirts are great over uniforms)!
  • Ask for any other contributions from parents – those clearing out for Christmas and birthdays may be more than willing to part with games, Lego, action figures and dolls.
  • Create a soft area for relaxation – cushions, beanbags and screens – add a few magazines and recreational reading books for all ages.
  • Have the radio or music on, if children so desire can create play opportunities and make for a changeable play environment.
  • Be a play magpie! Recycle and keep a close eye out at jumble sales, car boots, in skips and befriend you local caretakers for any unwanted items that could have good play value for children.
  • Subscribe and join the Phoenix Resource Centre for lots of cheap resources for both school and the breakfast club.
  • Consider using the County Toy Library to hire toys and resources for play cheaply and to freshen up what’s on offer
  • Set aside an area for children and young people to display some of their work or club photos – this gives a sense of pride and ownership and is also an excellent way to attract new business.

If you would like to know more about play and playwork, contact your Area Support Officer for further information.

Food

Breakfast clubs should offer a variety of healthy nutritious breakfast options and a Northamptonshire County Council Healthy Food and Drink Pack from your Area Support Officer can support you with this. Hot drinks and food are welcome additions to menus. Breakfast clubs should promote children’s independence and this is good practice – allowing children to serve themselves breakfast, for example make their own toast or pour own milk, even wash up their plates and bowls!

Enjoy it! Breakfast clubs are often discussed as a pleasure to run and be part of, given their nature, short opening time atmosphere. Don’t be afraid to try new menus and implement and listen to children’s suggestions for improvement. If you have any questions, require support or would like to see other breakfast clubs for inspiration then speak to your Area Support Officer.

Funding
External funding is applicable to some breakfast clubs, but not always retrospectively; keep a look out for any new funding that becomes available to organisations:

  • Magic Breakfasts “partner school subscriptions”, providing schools with nutritious breakfast club food whereby schools have children receiving 50% or more free school meals, subject to application:
  • Greggs – The Breakfast Club programme – FOC provision, funded and providing food from/by Greggs bakery, subject to application and AOD:
What other support is there for me?

    

Are you a voluntary managed setting?

Northamptonshire County Council has a contract with the National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA) to provide help and support to committee led settings that need it.

The NDNA will proactively contact settings in due course to explain more about how they can help but in the meantime if you need any support please contact:

Tel: 01484 407078
Email: Northampton@ndna.org.uk

Are you a private, independent or maintained setting?

Support is available for settings which are:

  • privately owned
  • managed by an Independent school or
  • operated by a school in the Maintained sector

This support can include an independent review or health check of the setting, help with grant applications, business and financial planning or any aspect of the day to day performance of the setting. All support is free of charge.

Contact the early years team to access this support:

Email: earlyyears@northamptonshire.gov.uk

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