Meet Riverside Cottage Nursery - Living Wage Employer

Meet Riverside Cottage Nursery - Living Wage Employer

 

Riverside Cottage Nursery in Bathgate is a private nursery with a fresh approach and philosophy to childcare. As well as their status as the 250th accredited Scottish Living Wage Employer, the nursery also recently received the Investing in Children Award and has even been visited as an example of best practice in the UK by a group of childcare researchers from Australia.  Family owned and run, the nursery takes a holistic view of nature, children, education and care - providing a family atmosphere with staff  and children eating together inside and outside from a natural, organic and home-grown menu.  Children are very active at Riverside; playing and learning outside as well as inside, being introduced to basic tools, skills and knowledge that are traditional and timeless. The children spend a lot of their time outdoors and there are large lawns with a paved play courtyard, two outdoor classrooms, a woodland play area, a woodland adventure zone and an organic allotment.

The founder of Riverside Cottage, Sharon Coyle, sadly passed away in May 2011, shortly after the nursery opened. Sharon was very academic, with degrees in Sociology, Psychology and Homeopathy and read widely on the European outdoor models of childcare. The other driving force behind her concept for Riverside was to recreate the childhood holidays she spent with her own Granny. The two approaches fit together remarkably well, which goes to show – you should always listen to Granny!

All of the staff are committed to keeping Sharon’s vision and ethos alive, but perhaps none more-so than her eldest son Luke Addison. Luke was closely involved in the whole three year process that led to the opening of Riverside Cottage Nursery. When disaster struck he took a year out from his degree course in Horticulture to come home and help with family and the closure of the nursery - but ended up persuading his dad to keep the nursery open, taking over the manager's role while switching his University course to Childhood Studies. Luke has grown in the role and become a rising star in the childcare profession with astonishing speed while still studying for his degree and he is already being invited to speak at seminars and conferences at home and abroad.

Luke said:

“We decided to become an accredited Living Wage employer because we could afford to do it, because we think it’s part of our responsibility to society and because it fits with our overall ethos. We try and have a reflective practice here; no hierarchical structure or strict rotas for the staff and letting the children lead the plan.

I like the fact that the Living Wage is voluntary but it does bug me that some employers who could pay the Living Wage are not paying it.”

Luke’s father, David Addison, is the owner of the Nursery, and an ex-Ambulance Service paramedic and driving instructor. David was a professional drummer and music tutor before taking over the nursery.

David said:

“Paying the Living Wage wasn’t a difficult decision for us. It just seems like the right thing to do.  It obviously makes people better off, and we like the fact the Living Wage gives a more realistic guide to what people need, rather than the National Minimum Wage.

Lots of parents have commented positively and we expect this will help with future recruitment as well because anyone who sees the badge will know right away that we are Living Wage.”

We also spoke to some of the staff at Riverside.

Ella Connor is 19 years old and qualified as a Nursery Practitioner just a few weeks ago.

Ella first came to Riverside in 2012 for a 6 month placement through a “Ways to Work” course at West Lothian College. She then came back to the nursery for a further 12 weeks in 2013 before starting her SVQ3 through Carousel training in 2014. Ella has now been on the Living Wage for three weeks and she told us what the Living Wage means to her.

Ella said: 

“My friends all like to go shopping and to the cinema, but without the Living Wage I can’t always do that. I’m also learning to drive at the moment, but before the Living Wage I couldn’t always afford the lessons. I’ve actually just booked a holiday and that would usually mean I couldn’t do anything else for a while. Now I can pay for my driving lessons and I’m hoping to put money away for a car as well.

 “The Living Wage also makes me feel more confident and valued whilst I’m working. I recognise that I’m appreciated for doing my job, and that even rubs off on the children I’m looking after.”

Carol Ann is 28 years old and lives with her partner and their two children.

Carol Ann has been a Nursery Practitioner at Riverside Cottage since November 2012 but she first started in the world of work aged just 15. Although Carol Ann’s career has always focused on childcare; she has worked for a range of other employers over the years to supplement her income including a leisure centre, nightclubs, catering and factory work.  

Carol Ann said:

“Not having the Living Wage has meant working a lot of hours at times. With two children, the cost of food is expensive, especially if you want to feed them a healthy balanced diet. You could just buy chicken nuggets or something like that, but I want to prepare a healthy meal so it costs a lot more. By the time you buy fruit and veg and prepare it all at home, it’s expensive. Sometimes your whole wage can go on that.

“I expect the Living Wage will make a difference financially, but it also makes me feel valued in my work – you’re not just a number there to make them money. You feel you’re appreciated. When I’ve worked for other employers, I’ve sometimes felt that the owners were making all the money, getting the big cars and nice holidays whereas I was putting in all the work and getting nothing. I feel much more valued here.

“I’ve never worked in a place where everyone works as a proper team like this. Everyone mucks in and nobody is left behind. Everyone supports each other here.”

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