The highlights of working for a thriving social enterprise on the banks of the River Thames.
Being part of a wider community not only gives practitioners at Coin Street Nursery in London a huge sense of worth – but it also makes the role exciting.
Coin Street Nursery, which sits on the riverside of London’s South Bank, home to iconic attractions such as the London Eye and the Tate Modern, is part the Ofsted Outstanding Coin Street family and children’s centre. The 84-place purpose-built nursery is based on the first floor of the thriving Coin Street Neighbourhood Centre which has state-of-the-art facilities, and houses the social enterprise’s head office, as well as conference rooms for hire; family support and parenting sessions; stay and play and a creche.
With 80 members of staff in the same building, many working with the people who live and work in the neighbourhood, there’s a huge sense of community spirit, explains Sam Major-Linithan, a level 3 practitioner who has worked for Coin Street Nursery for seven years.
‘We call ourselves the Coin Street family,’ she says. ‘We’re not just part of the nursery; we are part of the organisation as a whole – and because of its nature, we feel very connected to the local residents we serve.
‘To see the children, families and staff benefiting from the area, is great. One day we might board the Thames Clipper or take children to collect plastic from Ernie’s Beach on the river foreshore; and another we are having dance lessons at a world-renowned dance company. Coin Street staff working in other areas of the organisation often pop into the nursery to read stories to the children or help in the nursery’s garden.’
HOW IT WORKS
Social enterprise Coin Street Community Builders works in Waterloo and North Southwark, London. From a derelict site in 1984, it has created a thriving, diverse, vibrant and welcoming place for people to live, work and play. Coin Street owns and manages 13 acres of land, including Oxo Tower Wharf and Gabriel’s Wharf with their cafes, restaurants, design spaces and shops, Bernie Spain Gardens and a significant stretch of the riverside walkway, as well as co-operative homes and the neighbourhood centre. Income generated from hiring the venues stays in the neighbourhood and helps to provide free and affordable activities for families, children, young people, adults and older people in the community. For example, children at the nursery benefit from weekly dance lessons at Rambert, the UK’s leading contemporary dance company. This is one of the benefits for the community of the partnership between Coin Street and Rambert, whose HQ is on Coin Street’s site. Likewise, they attend football sessions at the Colombo Centre, a leisure centre with four outdoor sports pitches.
Devina Brown, early years manager in the two-year-old room, who leads a team of seven practitioners, has been at the nursery for almost a year.
She says: ‘It’s an exciting place to work. For our last team building exercise, we climbed up the Oxo Tower and found out all about the history of it. We’ve also done a treasure hunt around our 13 acres. We often take the children on trips around the South Bank – to Borough Market; Bernie Spain Gardens or Tate Modern. We often take the children leaving nursery to start school on the London Eye each year, which is just a short walk away. And because we’re so close to the West End, we do planned trips to Chinatown or to the National Portrait Gallery.’
Devina immediately felt at home when she joined the nursery. ‘The staff welcomed me with open arms. We met for a drink at Nando’s, which is actually on the ground floor of our building – and just one of the restaurants we get 20 per cent discount from – and we stayed chatting for hours. It was obvious to see that this is an organisation that really cares about the children and their families – and their staff.’
According to Devina, her role isn’t just about caring for the children in their early years. ‘We see the families on an ongoing basis, even when their children have left. We might see them at the creche or at our family support sessions – and their siblings often attend the youth clubs or sports sessions.
‘Knowing that I’m part of a bigger network, giving something back to the children but also their parents by supporting them with their child’s development, is very rewarding.’
There are also opportunities to join groups within the organisation. For example, Sam is on the social committee and comes up with exciting themes for the company-wide Christmas and Summer parties. ‘The theme always revolves around ‘Coin’, our name,’ Sam explains. ‘This year we had an 80s theme called ‘Club Tropi’Coin’a. Last year’s summer party was MexiCoin Fiesta. The summer party usually takes place on the roof garden of the Neighbourhood Centre, which overlooks the London skyline. There are also three staff Inset days where all the Coin Street staff get together for team building, communication and celebrating success. For example at the last Inset day, after a Dragon’s Den-style exercise to create a new product and pitch it to the commercial team, the staff chose from a range of activities – bowling; an escape room challenge; Rambert dance experience; herbal tea making or the Oxo Tower Wharf experience.‘
— Coin Street (@CoinStreet) November 2, 2019
Nursery staff also benefit from team-only Inset days three times a year, which usually involve team building and training on safeguarding, first aid and new initiatives like forest school. They also have personal development training, which is either online training, or offsite using the organisation’s links with Southwark and Lambeth colleges.
The above article first published on nurseryworld.co.uk in Nov. 2019.