Nursery chain founders launched careers at Barking and Dagenham College

Two childcare professionals who set up a successful chain of nurseries have been described as “exceptional role models” - 15 years after discovering their vocation at college.

Entrepreneurs Sarah Saint and Leah Clarke struck up a friendship while studying at Barking and Dagenham College, then worked for the same company and finally launched their own nursery called Barney Bears.

The duo now have four nurseries employing 45 staff and are in the process of setting up a head office.

College bosses have praised the two businesswomen, who passed their childcare qualifications in 1998.

Childcare and beauty curriculum manager, Ann McDaniel, said: “They truly are exceptional role models and are playing a key role inspiring the next generation of childcare professionals in our local area.”

Sarah and Leah opened their first Barney Bears nursery in Upney Lane, Barking, in 2004.

They now have other branches in Dagenham, West Ham and Chigwell.

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And the women have come full circle as they give work placements - and jobs - to childcare students at the further education college in Dagenham Road, Rush Green.

A college spokesman said: “The pair struck up a firm friendship and began their careers in the childcare field after a recruitment fair held at the college.

“They now employ 45 staff and most of these have been trained at Barking and Dagenham College and have attended their work placements at the Barney Bears chain.”