The next chapter 6 December 2019 Lexington managing director Julia Edmonds on taking the helm at the boutique caterer and her people plans for the future
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Fair play for all

01 January 2000
Fair play for all

I'm up at 4am to feed my baby, Zak, then I try to sleep until 6.30am. I get started with a cup of tea in the shower, and at 7.30am my mum collects Zak and I set off for work.

The hotel is a 20-minute drive from my home in Ilkley, so I arrive around 7.50am and at 8am we draw back the curtains, unlock the doors and wait for the rush.

Playzone is the hotel's own purpose-built, state-registered nursery. It's situated on the ground floor and was opened along with the hotel in 1989. We have one large room, an outdoor soft-play area, a quiet room where the little ones can sleep, and a small kitchen.

We operate in the same way as the leisure club - as a facility for guests, but with outside membership. We are licensed to take as many as 25 children from 8am to 6pm; hotel guests are offered two hours' free childcare, then they pay £2 an hour. Members pay as much as £15 a day, plus £2 for snacks and dinner.

Playzone gives the hotel a child-friendly image, even if it's not used. Guests choose to come here as they know they can relax while their children enjoy activities under professional supervision.

During school holidays, we look after an average of 15 resident children a day, and maybe half-a-dozen at weekends, but on weekdays we mostly care for members' children.

There's playtime until toast and jam is served at 9am. Teletubbies at 10am is an important part of the day. While the children watch TV, we tidy up and prepare the day's activity. Today, it's bubble painting, which is great fun but enormously messy. They use straws to blow paint, water and washing-up liquid on to paper. It gets noisy, too, as we cry: "Remember to blow, don't suck."

Ten of us look after 10-20 children aged three months to seven years, plus the after-school club for children up to nine. Most of them are regulars, but occasionally the children of our hotel guests don't speak English. That's never a problem, though; it's amazing what you can do with hand signals.

During the day, we change nappies, clear up during quiet times, supervise ball games outdoors to improve motor skills, or practise writing, numeracy and pencil control. Our general manager, Paul Burroughes, usually drops in and I make him join in a game, share a birthday cake or sit and chat with the children.

We are planning a new children's menu, so at 10.30am I'm meeting Gavin, the head chef, to discuss their favourite dishes. We try to vary fish fingers and burgers with a range of traditional home-cooking dishes such as shepherd's pie or a wholesome stew.

At midday, after our daily sing-song, our child-friendly dinners arrive, freshly cooked in the hotel kitchens by Gavin's brigade. We eat the same food as the children, or a staff meal, then the children watch videos or play outside. Once a month, I attend the heads of department meeting to discuss Playzone's revenue and bookings, and whether we need new equipment.

At 3.30pm, our members' older children arrive for an after-school sandwich tea followed by football with our very own Ryan Giggs - nursery nurse Matthew. The little ones watch television.

Between 5pm and 6pm the children leave, clutching their masterpieces, and we prepare for the next day. During the evening, the Playzone staff can earn extra money babysitting for the hotel guests, but I head home to Zak.

Interview by Pam Legatet centre in

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