Orpington childcare leader wins Lifetime Achievement Award at prestigious early years event

England’s largest early years membership organisation, the Early Years Alliance, presented the first ever ‘Belle Tutaev’ Lifetime Achievement Award to Virginia Brown, a Pre-school leader at Crofton Early Learners, Orpington, at its annual conference in London.

Virginia, who has worked at Crofton Early Learners for 20 years, was chosen for her incredible record of achieving ‘outstanding’ Ofsted results year after year, for her dedication to children with special educational needs and their families, and for being an inspirational leader and mentor to co-workers.

The Early Years Alliance award was renamed this year in honour of early years campaigner Belle Tutaev who founded the Early Years Alliance in 1961, and who sadly died aged 90 in January this year. Belle’s daughter, Mary Tutaev, joined the Alliance’s chair of trustees, Sophie Ross and chief executive Neil Leitch to present Virginia and four runners-up with their awards at the London event.  

Commenting on the selection process, Early Years Alliance chief executive, Neil Leitch said: “Nominations were of a particularly high standard, and it was very difficult to choose a winner for the Alliance’s first Belle Tutaev Lifetime Achievement Award. We know there are many, many early years practitioners – including our four, incredible runners-up – who go above and beyond what is expected of them.”

“Virginia more than represents the values espoused by Belle Tutaev, and this alongside her tireless commitment to the job shows that if you get the early years right, the impact on children, families and the wider community can be profound.”

On receiving her award, Virginia Brown said: “I am amazed! You don’t do this sort of thing for the recognition. You do it for the love of it. 

"I’ve been in a privileged position of being part of an excellent team. It’s all about the children, and for parents to come into our setting and say, that’s where I want my child to be." 

Outside her work at Crofton Early Learners, Victoria launched a new initiative, the Hub, which brings together other early years practitioners, and particularly childminders in the Orpington area who can often feel isolated, to talk about local community issues as well as early education best practice.

Four runners-up were highly commended at the event. They were:

  • Carmen Powell, independent childcare expert and author, Kingston Upon Thames
  • Valerie Paisey, childcare lead at Jack and Jill Pre-school, Westbury-on-Trym
  • Jill Casson, supervisor at Tas Valley Pre-school, Tasburgh
  • Jackie Swankie, manager at Calton Playgroup, Gloucester


Notes to editors

Contenders for the Belle Tutaev Lifetime Achievement Award were nominated by colleagues, parents and people who work with them in their local communities, and were assessed by a panel of judges on seven criteria including their contribution to the community and how they overcame obstacles.

About the Alliance

  • The Early Years Alliance is the largest and most representative early years membership organisation in England. A registered educational charity, it also provides high-quality affordable childcare and education to support children and families in areas of deprivation throughout the country.
  • The Alliance represents 14,000 member settings and supports them to deliver care and learning to more than 800,000 families every year. We deliver family learning projects, offer information and advice, produce specialist publications, run acclaimed training programmes and campaign to influence early years policy and practice.

The Alliance website is www.eyalliance.org.uk