Local Business, News

Ali Thompson reveals her plans for Panda Nursery

Local nursery and pre-school, Panda Nursery was recently rated OUTSTANDING by Ofsted!  This is an amazing achievement for this brilliant and long-standing, family-run business, based at St Peter’s Church Hall.

Dedicated Panda Director and smart cookie, Ali Thompson, who graduated with a 1st Class (Hons) degree in Management Studies from Brunel University, talks to us about Panda and her plans for the future. 

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Ali Thompson, staff and Pandas celebrate their ‘Outstanding’ rating! Photo: Kevin Black

Congratulations on achieving Panda’s “Outstanding rating” by Ofsted!  

Thank you. I’m so proud, and a little emotional! We have been dedicated to making Panda the best pre-school around. I wanted Limpsfield to be able to boast about having an ‘Outstanding’ nursery and we’ve been working very hard to achieve this, so it’s great to now have the recognition that we are doing the right things – and we will continue to aim high and provide the best nursery around.

Tell us a bit about the Panda story?

Panda started in 1960 and I’m the fifth owner.  My mother-in-law, June Thompson ran it for over 15 years and I’ve been involved for 7 years. It is very much a family business. Our family lives and breathes Panda!  My children help set up in the mornings, my husband is always around fixing things and June and Geoff Thompson are always helping out.

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How did you initially get involved with Panda?

Six years ago I started to support June Thompson with finance and accounting, managing HR and working on improving internal and external communications. Once I had my children my outlook on life changed. My love of Panda grew along with my wish to be around more for my children. I slowly became more involved with supporting the business and took over from my mother-in-law, June Thompson in September 2014.

I have been crystal clear on my vision to make Panda Nursery the best place for children to learn and develop. I want to be uncompromising on continuously reflecting and improving all we do to ensure we follow outstanding practice.

What are your main aims for the nursery?

Our mission is quite simply to be the best pre-school around! We are uncompromising on providing outstanding care, and support all our children to make significant progress towards their learning outcomes.

I wanted to carry on the amazing work of June Thompson. I talk about the business being based on family values. I want the best for my children and see all children at Panda as part of our own family. I base all we do on the questions: “Would it be good enough for my child?”  “Would I be happy as a parent?”

 

I have an amazing team of staff who share my vision and work hard. They get in ridiculously early every day to help set up the nursery and regularly attend training courses to ensure we are implementing best practice, continuously reflecting and reviewing what we do to ensure we are always moving forward and being the best we can be.

I studied and completed the Level 3 Children’s & Young Person Diploma. I now aim to complete a short course each term to keep my knowledge fresh and drive our brilliant nursery to continuously improve.

What’s your motto?!

Happy children, happy parents and happy staff!

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What is your aim for your little Pandas?

We want to encourage and nurture independent, lifelong learners and have high aspirations for all our little Pandas!

We support each one of them to be:

  • Passionate about learning and prepared for school
  • A confident communicator who can make friends and respect others
  • Not afraid to take risks and find new challenges
  • Determined and resilient
  • An independent little being and creative thinker

Have you always been in Limpsfield?

Yes. Panda briefly had to move out of St Peter’s Hall when it burnt down (it moved to the Baptist Church in Oxted for about 18 months), but then we moved back after it was re-built and Panda has been here ever since.

Do all your families live in Limpsfield or from further afield?

Most of our families live in Limpsfield, Oxted or Hurst Green. We do have a few parents from Godstone, Edenbridge, Tatsfield and Caterham.

What do you love most about Limpsfield?

The sense of community. There is so much going on from fetes and fairs, horticultural events, school jazz BBQs and much more. Father James at St Peter’s Church is brilliant and we love attending his children’s services.

Could Limpsfield do more for young families?  

Limpsfield is crying out for its own small playground, something that could become a central focal point for local families in the village. We often have whole nursery picnics in Master Park, Oxted in order to access the playground, so it would be amazing if we could arrange this social occasion in our own village and I know that all young families in the area (and there are many) would really appreciate and use it.

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What’s next for Panda?

Moving to our own purpose-built nursery is our key focus for the near future. I’m working with St Peter’s Church to gain their support to move our nursery into a purpose-built building on The Glebe Meadow, the field just below St Peter’s Church Hall carpark.

It would make a massive difference to us to have our very own, dedicated space. It would enable us to not only provide more nursery places for local families in need of childcare and have better facilities for our children and staff, but also to provide other services to the community like parent workshops, coffee mornings for parents to meet other parents, parent and toddler classes and support classes around behaviour and healthy eating etc.

It’s early days, but I hope to be able to give some positive news soon!

Click here to view the Ofsted report.

For more information on Panda, click here.

For Kevin Black’s article on Panda’s Ofsted rating achievement, click here.

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