Early years new entrant Ann Education has acquired A Step Ahead Nurseries, a group of six settings in West Sussex, which together cater to 312 children.

Ann Education is funded by Chinese national Patrick Lou, who has a banking and finance background, along with a private investor.

Ann Education is looking to expand in the UK and also exploring how to take its education and care model into China.

The company has appointed David Hancock as chief executive who has 14 years of experience in the sector. He was previously chief executive of Little Garden Day Nurseries where he was responsible for the turnaround and sale of the four London-based nurseries to an investment company last year. Before that, he was managing director of Treetops Nurseries, a large group mainly in the East and Southeast of England, which was acquired by Busy Bees in 2017.

Hancock said: “We would like to acquire more nurseries but would like to do it in a measured way. We do not want to grow, grow, grow but to demonstrate to investors that we can take a nursery business and, together with my experience and the people in that business, make it a beacon of high-quality childcare. We will then look through expansion to transfer what we have learned into what we go on to acquire. We hope to acquire great settings along the way that we can also learn from.’

Family-owned A Step Ahead Nurseries was set up in 2006 by Antonia and Mark Ogden-Meade. The business was sold through business property advisor Christie & Co for an undisclosed sum.

Date published: 29 September 2020

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