I think we can speak for all here at Bright Horizons when we say what an incredible year 2017 has been, both when looking at changes to the landscape of the political and care sector and when we are reflecting internally within our organisation.

2017 has brought significant growth and change – we’re now looking after a record number of children and families in our nurseries, and at home through our Care Advantage and Bright Horizons Nanny service. In fact, Bright Horizons is privileged to look after more than 24,000 children and families each and every day –which we are truly proud of. We recognise the challenges and similarities between our own growth and international position and appreciate that our clients are facing similar challenges and opportunities. We are now better placed than ever before to support our clients as their organisations grow and evolve.

2017 was a packed year - in January we once again worked with leading work/life charity Working Families to release our Modern Families Index  - our annual pulse check of working families’ life in the UK. Some clear themes emerged: family was still priority No.1, but there was a real sea change occurring in the expectations of millennials when it came to work and family life - and it was clear that for many fathers difficult conversations were being had around topics like parental leave. Many families were feeling squeezed and prone to burn out. 

It’s also clear, though, from our own conversations with employers, that many organisations are committed to helping combat stress and burnout with family-friendly strategies like back-up emergency childcare. With the phasing out of childcare vouchers, the concept of workplace nurseries (or purchasing places at nearby nurseries) is becoming increasingly popular, along with the concept of supporting workers who are supporting elderly family members. The next issue of the Modern Families Index 2018 will be launched in January – watch this space!

April 2017 brought a highlight that we are particularly proud of - our Solutions at Work Live London at the Tower of London brought clients, prospective clients and industry experts together to network, share best practice and hear from speakers who really were the ‘crown jewels’. Speakers included Julie Wilkes, North America Wellness Lead for Accenture and Fiona Triller from Charlotte Sweeney Associates and Creating Inclusive Cultures. Feedback from our attendees highlighted how inspiring the event was, and how they particularly enjoyed the chance to meet face to face and network with their peers. We debuted our ‘Dream Company’ research at the event, (packed with statistics, hints, tips and strategies for recruitment and retention and marketing employee benefits) and launched the full report shortly afterwards.

Politically, this year has been a turbulent one. We think it’s fair to say that the governments’ planned introduction of 30 hours funded childcare has been controversial for providers and parents; with many parents unable to access the funding they were entitled to. As ever, Bright Horizons Nursery Managers are there to help parents and advise in person.  

Additionally, the unpredictability around Brexit remains.  Bright Horizons already provides consulting on international family care strategies and we are confident that our knowledge of the international childcare landscape  enables us to advise our client’s on their best childcare strategy, whether they choose to locate in the UK or abroad.  

Bright Horizons StaffIn May we were delighted to be recognised again as a ‘Great Place to Work’ - this is the 12th consecutive year Bright Horizons has been named on the list, which acknowledges organisations that have a high trust, high engagement workplace culture. This is particularly significant for us as last year we grew substantially – (welcoming Asquith nurseries and the Little Unicorn Group from Canary Wharf into the Bright Horizons family). Although we’ve grown, our standards remain high - and we are always looking for new ways to support our employees. Our new BrightStart programme offers nursery workers a greater degree of flexibility and choice over their career path than ever before – we are currently trialling this programme and will be looking to take the learning from our trials forward, ensuring that we remain the employer of choice in our sector.

Finally, our Bright Horizons Foundation for Children is thriving. This year we’ve reached out to support even more families in need– we opened 11 new Bright Spaces in 2017 and will have 55 throughout the UK by the end of this year and have established a strategic partnership with Refuge. Bright Spaces provide vulnerable children with a safe and welcoming place where they can relax and play – and simply enjoy being a child. When life is at its most bleak, this can be the best gift of all. This year we opened our first Bright Space in a court (Isleworth), children’s hospice (Ellenor Hospice in Dartford) and hospital (Camden & Islington NHS).  When disaster struck at the Grenfell Tower, 33 nurseries and offices donated 113 boxes of clothing and supplies for the victims of the fire. In 2018 we’re going to do even more. If you would like to find out more about our Foundation for Children and how you can be involved in our future projects, please click here.

2017 has brought us SO much growth and change – we’ve embraced this, and are looking forward to 2018 with a bright and positive outlook – we are a deeply human business, and we can’t wait to meet new children, new families, new colleagues and new clients –here’s wishing you all a great holiday and a very Happy New Year – we look forward to seeing you all again in 2018!

James Tugendhat, Managing Director, International

Denise Priest, Director of Employer Partnerships