Claire Harrison-Jones

As a former member of the Great Britain Judo team, grappling with life as manager of Little Ladybirds is child’s play to Claire Harrison-Jones.

Given her sporting background (she took up judo aged five) Claire always envisioned a job working in sport and even did a diploma in sports science with a view to becoming a physiotherapist.

It was only after giving birth to her son Jake that she began to take a different career direction, in childcare.

Claire, 36, explains: “When I was younger all I wanted to do was judo and when I became part of the GB team that meant travelling around the country, and to other countries like Portugal, training and taking part in competitions.

“I became pregnant at 19 and my priorities changed when I had Jake and I started to think about doing some permanent in childcare.”

Claire initially worked at a playgroup in Norton ran by Stockton Borough Council and achieve her Level 3 in Childcare. From there she did various roles, including looking after children in a mobile creche and at a children’s centre. Her first experience working a private day nursery came in 2013 and she went on to become the manager at that setting.

Claire came to Little Ladybirds in August 2020 and says it has made a massive difference to her.

She explains: “Before I came to Little Ladybirds, I had started questioning what I did, but being here has reignited the flame I have for childcare.

“It’s a fantastic setting to work in. The parents are amazing, and I have never seen children that are so well behaved. They are like little rays of sunshine.”

One of Claire’s passions (aside from judo but more on that shortly!) from an early years perspective is The Curiosity Approach and it’s something she has started to implement at Little Ladybirds.

She says: “Children are surrounded by plastic, flashy lights and other things which don’t really reflect real life, so The Curiosity Approach is all about giving these real-life experiences through the use of natural materials.

“So, for example, at Little Ladybirds, we starting to make the nursery rooms feel more like homes, with wallpaper on the walls, wicker chairs, lamps and dining sets.

“Then it’s about encouraging the children to use resources which are open ended. So, a wooden spoon doesn’t just need to be used to stir something, but in countless other ways using the children’s imaginations.”

Claire took up judo again around five years ago but has now hung up her ‘Judo Gi’, however she is still very much involved in the sport.

She explains: “Jake has been doing it since he was little and is in the England team, so I have become a judo mum, taking him to practice and tournaments, so nothing’s really changed for me there!”

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