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Gerard McCavanagh

Gerard McCavanagh Concierge

Be Inspired Series

Michelle Rea

Owner/Manager
Little Rays Nursery

'I get the most satisfaction when a parent stops me and tells me how good my staff are and how happy their child is to come into the nursery every day. Also when parents send their second, third and in some cases fourth child to the nursery, this tells me

What does your job involve?

I visit each nursery at least once a week and talk to all the children and staff. I receive regular updates from each manager about anything significant happening in any nursery and am closely involved with this until its resolution. I also have regular paperwork which needs to be kept up-to-date.

What sort of qualities do you need to do your job successfully?
You have to be friendly, patient, diplomatic and fair.

What does your job entail?

My job is all about quality control and working on ways to improve the quality of care in the nurseries.
Whilst the physical environment is important, I believe it's the experience and quality of the staff which is what parents look for most. You can have the most fabulous toys, equipment and material things, but if the staff don't interact and stimulate the children these are useless.
Parents often comment on the homely atmosphere in the nurseries and this is of the utmost importance. It's important for parents to know their child feels at home.
I also ensure that there is a consistency throughout the nurseries and they are all working towards the same goal. I have bi-monthly managers' meetings when we discuss strategies for improvement, consistency and how we will move the nurseries forward.

Is it 9-5?

Unfortunately not! Two of the nurseries open from 7.30am — 6pm and one opens from 7.30am — 6.30pm Monday to Friday. We need to be there early and late so parents can drop their children off and collect them while still fitting in a full day at work.

How did you get into this line of work?

After the birth of my second child I became a registered childminder. However, I was keen to take it to the next level and began to research the need for a day nursery. I identified Lisburn as the ideal area and it took a while to find the right premises. The location needs to be convenient as parents don't want to add unnecessary travel time onto their already busy day. I was fortunate finding a suitable spot in the Queensway property. It then took months to get it registered. On November 1, 1993, Queensway Creche, as it was then known, was opened and registered for 30 children. I then had two more children and in 2004 I opened my second nursery in Ballymena and changed the name to Little Rays. My husband came on board with me to run the business at this stage, and in 2006 the Moira nursery opened.

Outline your career to date?
When I left school my first job was working in the family business which was nursing homes. I considered taking nursing as a career, but decided against it once I started my own family. It was at this time I registered as a childminder and then opened the nursery. This job allowed me to work and have my children close by, knowing they were being well looked after. I completed the NIPPA diploma course whilst opening the nursery and over the years have completed my level 3 in management and am currently completing my level 5 in child care, learning and development. In addition to this I have completed numerous child protection, designated officer, first aid, food hygiene, child management, child development and health and safety courses.

What do you like most about your job?

I get the most satisfaction when a parent stops me and tells me how good my staff are and how happy their child is to come into the nursery every day. Also when parents send their second, third and in some cases fourth child to the nursery, this tells me we must be doing something right!

Are there any other projects you are involved in that you are particularly proud of?

We are currently working to improve and extend our outdoor play facilities in all the nurseries to include a substantial covered play area which allows for outdoor play all year round. We have also just started working with Derek Patterson from the Plough, Tannery and Pheasant, who will be advising us on our menu to create an exciting and nutritious meals with the emphasis on locally sourced, quality ingredients and training our cooks on the preparation of them. I'm really excited about both of these projects.

What is the best advice you have ever received?

If you want to do something, just do it.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

In my spare time I go to the gym and I am a level 3 athletics coach. I coach, twice a week, a group of up and coming young Northern Irish athletes. I love doing this and get such satisfaction when the athletes develop a new skill or achieve personal best performances. Their commitment is a valuable quality.

Tell us something interesting about yourself.

I used to hold the Northern Ireland long jump record of 6.11m. It was a fellow clubmate who broke the record by two centimetres.

Who has inspired you most in your life?

Mary Peters has been a big inspiration as it was she who pointed me in the direction of the first athletics club I joined, Belfast Ladies, back in 1980.

 

What's your advice to someone seeking a similar career...

Be sure it's what you want to do and be committed. Especially in the first years it will consume your life and there will be many ups and downs. It's definitely not a route to fast fortune and the hours are long. However, if you do it properly right from the start, the rewards are many.

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