Oxfordshire day nursery group acquired by fast-growing education business

Tiny Toes Nursery

A trio of Oxfordshire day nurseries have been acquired by a fast-growing independent education provider.

Chatsworth Schools, which is itself headquartered in Oxfordshire, has purchased Tiny Toes Day Nurseries in a deal arranged by the childcare business transfer specialist Abacus Day Nursery Sales, a specialist division of Blacks Business Brokers.

Tiny Toes operates from premises in Abingdon, Steventon and Wallingford which, at the time of the sale, were registered to provide a total of 129 childcare places. In its most recent financial year the business turned over in excess of £1 million and all three nurseries were rated “Good” at their latest inspections by the regulator, OFSTED.

Tiny Toes externalThe first Tiny Toes nursery was established in Abingdon in 2005 by the group’s founder Margaret Webster, with the Steventon and Wallingford sites following in 2007 and 2015 respectively. Mrs Webster, who had decided to emigrate, recently instructed Abacus Day Nursery Sales to market the business, which included one freehold and two leasehold properties, with a guide price of £1.625 million.

The purchaser, Chatsworth Schools, currently operates two other day nurseries, both in London, as well as seven independent schools located in London, the South East and the Midlands. Chatsworth Schools, which is headquartered in Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire, was established in 2018 and is backed by the private equity firm Synova Capital.

The three Tiny Toes nurseries will continue to be run by their existing staff and management, Chatsworth Schools has confirmed. They will also come under the supervision of Chatsworth Schools’ director of Early Years, Viv Thompson, and head of nurseries, Clair Marsh, and will have access to support from Chatsworth’s team of learning, IT, SEND and compliance experts.

According to Chatsworth Schools’ chief executive, Anita Gleave, any future changes to the operation of Tiny Toes would be carried out in consultation with the whole nursery community. There are no immediate plans to rebrand the nurseries, although a change of name is likely to happen at some point.

Ms Gleave said she believed the culture of the Tiny Toes group of nurseries fitted closely with Chatsworth’s values. “We were attracted by the aims and ethos of Tiny Toes Day Nurseries, which seeks to nurture, encourage, inspire and invest in each child to help them achieve their full potential.

“Each of the Tiny Toes nurseries has a unique family atmosphere and we are delighted to welcome them to Chatsworth Schools. There are now 12 schools and nurseries in the Chatsworth family, and we will continue to enable outstanding futures at each and every one of them.”

The sale of Tiny Toes Day Nurseries is the latest in a series of similar deals to have been completed since the summer by Abacus Day Nursery Sales.

Joanne Booth, director of Abacus  Day Nursery Sales, said: “Although the pandemic has obviously had an effect on the market, and it would be wrong to claim that we are back to ‘business as usual’, we have actually noticed increasing demand from regional and national early years providers that want to grow sustainably by adding small, well-established groups of day nurseries to their portfolios.

“This should not come as a great surprise because economic upheaval always leads to an element of market consolidation. Periods like this can provide great opportunities both for business owners seeking profitable exits and consolidators looking to establish themselves as leading players for the future.”

Tim Ashlin, partner at Synova Capital, said, “As a leading private equity investor, Synova is extremely pleased to have been part of the core team that worked on these acquisitions with Chatsworth Schools.”

As well as Abacus Day Nursery Sales, Chatsworth Schools was advised on the transaction by the corporate and commercial practice at the London office of the global law firm Clyde & Co.