Scottish Apprenticeship Week - a Q&A with Yvonne Smillie


Ahead of Scottish Apprenticeships Week, we caught up with the Managing Director of our Scotland nurseries, Yvonne Smillie for a quick Q&A.

Joining the Busy Bees group in 2012, Yvonne has held key roles within Curriculum and Training departments before securing a position within the International Team in 2016, gaining first-hand experience of international standards and leadership styles. Progressing into the Senior Management team in 2018, Yvonne has held the positions of Deputy Chief Academic Officer, where she worked alongside the Founder and Chief Academic Officer, progressing onto become Academic Director taking her to January 2021 when she commenced the new role and challenge of Managing Director for Scotland.

Joining Busy Bees through the same acquisition which brought the first of the group’s Scottish nurseries into the Busy Bees portfolio, Yvonne was able to drive high standards and support these new nurseries to achieve previously unknown success. Her training background and detailed knowledge of curricular documentation and best practice were ideal skills to enable the Scottish group to raise standards, increase inspection grades, enhance their reputation and grow occupancy.

As a graduate of the University of Glasgow Yvonne was a member of the inaugural cohort of Early Years Professionals who completed their BA Childhood Practice, where approaches to Early Years Education and Leadership came together for the first time. This professional commitment to development and research is demonstrated throughout her 20+ years of experience within the field of Early Years Education, holding managerial positions before moving into further education and becoming a respected keynote speaker at national conferences. My desire to ensure children experience the best start in life saw me return to the front face of early years education and then into Busy Bees.

A broad knowledge of nursery management, key vision for quality and dedication to exceptional standards arms her ability to ensure that Busy Bees developments in Scotland return to strong foundations. In Scotland we are readying ourselves for strategic growth and to execute the ambitious strategic plan developed at the commencement of her role.

She gave us her thoughts on apprenticeships in Early Years and how Scotland’s nurseries have adapted throughout the COVID-19 Pandemic.

Hi Yvonne, what are the importance of apprentices in Scottish Universities? 

Yvonne: “As a valued staff member an apprentice is a key member of staff, essential to the workings of the team. Time spent sharing best practice, research, curricular and document knowledge is time well invested as your apprentice is your future Educator, Room Leader or Centre Director. It is a privilege to see a well-trained, knowledgeable apprentice flourish into a confident, skilled educator who inspires children and colleagues alike.”


What challenges have Scottish nurseries faced in the past 12 months?


Yvonne: “The Early Years Sector is fast-paced, ever evolving and it is our professional responsibility to remain abreast of current research, guidance and very best practice and never has this been more important than in this past year.


As educators, we can think creatively and respond with consideration and speed to challenges thrown at us, however, COVID-19 has presented challenges even the most imaginative could not have fathomed. As a sector we have risen to every challenge evolved our practice and at every turn we have continued to be a constant in children’s lives. Recognised as an essential service Early Years Professionals have played an integral part in the nations battle against COVID-19, when children needed us, we were there and when parents placed their trust in us at the most challenging of times, we responded to demonstrate that trust was well placed.”


It's great to see Early Years staff recognised as Essential Workers throughout the pandemic, why is this so important to the sector?


Yvonne: “Children are incredibly perceptive, when society was filled with panic and uncertainty Early Years offered tranquillity and calm, a place to be a child and have fun because that is when learning happens.


A career within the Early Years Sector is a challenging and rewarding one. You are a key educator in the lives of our youngest citizens and the role-played helps shape each child’s learning for the rest of their life. This is not a sector to enter into blindly, or because another college course was full, this is a profession with immense responsibility, where the effort you invest will be reflected and repaid ten times over in the eyes of children, who under your guidance can have the best start in life.”


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