Brett Wigdortz, Co-founder and CEO at tiney: Training Early Years Childcare Educators Through Tech

At tiney, we’re training up a new wave of fantastic early years educators to give more children a great start in life – and reinventing childcare in the process. We believe that great early years education can be life-changing. Our goal is to make the highest quality childcare accessible to more families, and to empower a generation of micro-entrepreneurs to deliver amazing care from their own homes. And all of this – from the training to keeping in touch with parents – is underpinned by technology.

Not only do we want to improve early years provision for children, but we also want to make a career in the childcare sector more respected and aspirational. Caring for children is vital work, so we want to get more people involved in these careers and ensure they are remunerated and empowered accordingly.

Prospective childminders train with us for free – through a combination of online and in-person training. We support them with everything from first-aid training to background checks, helping them become registered childminders. Tiney then supports them to set up their home nurseries and connect with families looking for fantastic childcare. Through our app, we help our childminders handle all the payments, insurance, lesson plans, contact with parents, and everything in between!

How did you come up with the idea for the company?

As a father of three, I know how hard it is to find good quality childcare that you can afford and that’s right for your children. Before starting tiney, I was running Teach First and my wife was (and still is) working as a paramedic. That meant for some complicated scheduling and lots of childcare juggling! We just wanted a childcare solution that was local and where our kids could learn, have fun and feel really comfortable.

I was seeing first-hand the impact that innovative thinking was having on secondary and primary schools through the Teach First model, so I started brainstorming how we could improve early years provision in a similar way. I started by mapping out what our ‘dream’ childcare solution would look like and how we could combine this accessible, affordable childcare with a drive to improve educational standards.

40% of the gap between disadvantaged and advantaged pupils at age 16 emerges before children start school at age 5. Making sure that our youngest children get the very best early years education is critical. It was from that passion to help every child get the best start in life and my lived experience of struggling to find the right childcare, tiney was built.

How has your previous experience at Teach First led to the formation of this company?

The thousands of hours I spent visiting schools across the country with Teach First (and around the world with Teach For All) highlighted the critical importance of early years education. Pupils who start primary school without having benefited from quality pre-school learning will lag behind their classmates both developmentally and academically. I knew that when it came to early years education not enough was being done.

This understanding motivated me to seek a way by which more children could have access to a quality Early Years education. This is why we invest in delivering the best training to our nursery leaders – we want tiney children to develop a love of learning which will put them in good stead for the rest of their school careers.

Another enduring lesson that Teach First taught me was that the seemingly impossible can be achieved if a group of truly talented and motivated people work together. This conviction certainly gave me the confidence I needed to go out and build a really fantastic team of early years educators, safeguarding specialists and digital tech developers. The tiney community of educators and families benefits every day from this breadth of expertise and experience.

What can we hope to see from tiney in the future?

We’ve had an incredibly positive first year at tiney, growing rapidly despite the challenges of the pandemic. Over 7,000 people have applied to our training programme since March, and new tiney home nurseries are opening their doors every week with about a hundred now up and running. Internally, our head office team is growing at a rapid rate too – we now have almost 40 of us, and we’re still recruiting.

Looking ahead, we’re incredibly excited to continue to expand into new parts of the country. Our latest expansion has taken us outside of London for the first time, and we have further geographic growth planned for 2021.

With the pressures of the COVID-19 lockdown putting hundreds of nurseries at risk of closure, it’s now more important than ever that new, affordable models of childcare are offered to parents. tiney is here to bring peace of mind to Britain’s families at this difficult time, to elevate the status of the childminder and to give the next generation the head start in life they deserve.