Local nursery director Sylvia Tiffney has been awarded a Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE) in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List (2019) for services to young children in North East Lincolnshire.

Sylvia, joint owner of the children’s house nursery, Stallingborough (with her twin sister Theresa Ellerby) has been recognised with the honour in acknowledgement of her lifetime’s achievements through her career and voluntary work in supporting children in their early years.

Sylvia has worked in early childhood education in the area for over forty years, initially with the preschool playgroup movement in the 1970s and 80s and then with other nurseries before opening the children’s house, Stallingborough in 2000. Her honour particularly recognises the voluntary work she has undertaken with the charity National Day Nurseries Association since the 1990s.  

Her co-leadership of the nursery and the work of the nursery team has garnered a number of local and national awards.

Sylvia (now of Appleton-le-Moors, North Yorkshire) said:

‘When I opened the envelope labelled ‘Cabinet Office’ I couldn’t quite take it in. I’m truly overwhelmed to have received this honour, completely surprised and very happy. It has to be said, that this wouldn’t have happened without my incredible sister and co-director Theresa and an amazing team of people working with us.

I have had the privilege to work with many early childhood educators over the past forty years. I would like to accept this honour on behalf of them and the thousands of children and families I have had the pleasure of knowing and being with in that time.’

This is such important work and I hope this honour goes a small way to raising the profile and the status of working with young children.’

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Sylvia Tiffney

Sylvia began forty years in early education by running a committee-led pre-school in a church hall in Grimsby in the 1970s, offering much needed support to local families. She developed the area’s first workplace nursery in 1987 and on behalf of a company developed a group of ten nurseries across Yorkshire and Lincolnshire in partnership with NHS trusts and FE colleges. During this time she was a founder member of the local Early Years Forum and Chair of an NVQ Assessment Centre. 

In 2000 she established a working partnership with her twin sister Theresa (also an early years educator) to build a nursery in Stallingborough village. The pair developed the nursery from an initial 5k personal investment in 2000 to one which now employs 35 local people providing care for 120 children per year.

Sylvia has led the quality of early years education provided by the nursery, which has been acknowledged with ‘outstanding’ OfSTED gradings at every inspection and the nursery has secured a number of national awards.

Sylvia is a true social entrepreneur. She developed a social enterprise training and consultancy arm of the organisation delivering training and support to centres across the country; any surplus from which is reinvested in the local community through activities such as family learning programmes, artists’ workshops and out of school clubs.

In addition to this work, Sylvia has been keen to support other centres. Going the extra mile as vice chair of the local early years forum, chair of the workforce group and one time chair of the local nursery network, she was recognised by the National Day Nurseries Association in 2005 as a local champion.

Sylvia has supported substantial development and investment via the local authority. In 2001 she supported the local authority to leverage £1m SRB/ERDF funds for the development of over 600 new childcare places across the borough. She has fearlessly challenged local decisions on early years funding and championed children’s rights through conference presentations and media articles.

Sylvia also spent several years as a parent governor of local Primary and secondary schools ensuring parents’ voices were heard on children’s education.

She has contributed these services consistently to North East Lincolnshire over forty years.