But 35 years on, the Rainbow Corner Nursery in Southsea is outstanding in the eyes of Ofsted and has claimed every inch of the Victorian property in which it began.
And today, The News is proud to name it the city’s Nursery School of the Year for 2018.
Now owned by Lucy Whitehead – the daughter of founders Jacquie and Geoff Scott – the day nursery has 16 members of staff and 104 children on its roster.
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Reflecting on winning the award, which garnered scores of entries from across The News’ patch, Lucy, 40, said: ‘It feels absolutely brilliant to win – we were all quite surprised when we found out.
‘I’m really proud of all the brilliant staff at the nursery and all the effort they put into working with the children.
‘We’re so grateful for all of our support from the parents and the public to win this award.’
Open to children from birth up until the age of eight, Rainbow Corner offers five classrooms, one sleep room, rooms for art, craft and water play, and two secure outdoor play areas.
And while that output is the result of huge growth since the nursery was kick-started in 1983, there are continuities which make its work so special.
‘I attended the nursery when I was a child and it was a huge part of my life growing up,’ Lucy said.
‘That’s the same story for a lot of the parents who bring their children here – I know many of them came along when they were younger.
‘That familiarity is a good example of the home-from-home atmosphere we try to make.’
Taking the reigns when her parents, both now 72, retired seven years ago, Lucy runs Rainbow Corner with the wealth of experience she acquired growing up and the skills she picked up through her business degree.
And one day, she said, it would be ‘lovely’ to see her seven-year-old son and four-year-old daughter step up to the plate in the same way.
She said: ‘My daughter attends the nursery and my son attended too before he went off to school.
‘In the future, we would love to have another Rainbow Corner and it would be lovely if either one or both of my children carried it on.’
Published in August last year, the education watchdog Ofsted’s report into Rainbow Corner hailed the site ‘interesting’ and ‘excellent with parents’ – heaping praise on to its staff and their efforts to embrace all Portsmouth has to offer.
The document said in part: ‘Staff interact extremely well with children. They take time to plan varied and really exciting activities that support children’s interests very well.
‘Staff include parents’ viewsand comments when planning activities, to ensure they cater for children’s individual needs.’
It continued: ‘Staff are extremely good role models and teach children to share, take turns and be very kind, considerate and helpful to each other.
‘[They] plan many interesting and exciting outings that create opportunities for children to learn about the immediate communities and cultures around them and the world in which they live.’
The St Jude’s Church and Canoe Lake nurseries – both in Southsea – placed second and third in ourNursery School of the Year Awards.
To learn more about Rainbow Corner, visit rainbowcorner.co.uk