How far would you travel for work? Five miles? Ten?
If you’re like most people in the UK, it’s no more than 23 miles – round trip.
But imagine a 27-mile drive to an airport, a 94-mile flight over the ocean, a half-mile trip to work, and then all the way back – 240 miles in total.
Sounds like a schedule of a high-powered CEO or an actor shooting on location, doesn’t it? But not this time. Not even close.
Because this is the story of a brilliant nursery educator from Portsmouth who sacrificed time at home, time with friends and family, to do one of the most important jobs in the world – educating children.
This is the story of nursery nurse Millie Smales.
One of everything
Nearly 100 miles south of the UK lies the much smaller Channel Island of Alderney, part of the Bailiwick of Guernsey.
Its population is around 2,000. And it’s less than two miles long or wide. Alderney is one of those stunning, picturesque places where they have everything you’d ever need – but usually just one of them.
One post office.
Twenty-four restaurants and pubs (definitely still the UK).
And one nursery: Humming Bees Day Nursery.
One nursery responsible for helping to grow and develop the children of this stunning sea-on-every-side community. But in early January, this tiny-island nursery had a big problem. They needed a qualified nursery nurse – only none lived on Alderney.
So Humming Bees called Georgina Rogers at Humly South East in Hampshire to help find one.
Nursery Nurse Number 41
Georgina is a Humly sales consultant. She’s who schools and nurseries call when they need brilliant supply educators, and she’s responsible for making this entire story happen.
Only, it almost didn’t.
The director of Humming Bees asked Humly to find a supply nursery nurse whilst they began recruiting for a permanent replacement. “They knew it was a big ask and were prepared to pay for flights from Southampton to Alderney plus offer free accommodation at their on-site guest house. I explained we’d never supplied to the Channel Islands before but that it wouldn’t stop us from giving it a go,” said Rogers
Free flight, free accommodation, plus island living – you’d think this would be the easiest booking ever, right?
“I asked about 40 qualified nursery nurses who all lived close to Southampton Airport. But they all said no because of either family or other work commitments,” said Rogers.
Yet all hope wasn’t lost.
“Almost all of the nursery nurses said this was a brilliant opportunity,” said Rogers.
Georgina knew this was an amazing opportunity. She just needed the right person with the right flexibility. She needed Millie Smales, aka nursery nurse number 41.
“Millie was perfect. She’s young, lived with her parents, and had the freedom and commitment to do this. And I arranged for the Humming Bees Nursery Director to fly into Southampton to meet and escort Millie back to Alderney,” said Rogers.
Georgina went above and beyond for Humming Bees and for Millie. That’s the Humly way.
But Millie’s willingness to leave home, do the job, and ensure these children get the education they deserve sets her apart.
And it’s why we had to have a chat with her.
Meet Nursery Nurse Millie Smales
Let’s start with the question we ask all our teachers and nursery nurses: Why did you become an educator?
I’d done work experience in nurseries as part of my health and social care course back in college and really enjoyed them a lot! And after I tried a year at uni, I realised my passion was in childcare. So I started an apprenticeship.
And how did you come to work with us at Humly?
I’d been working abroad for a while, and when I returned home, I wanted to get back into nurseries and found Humly on Google last November. I like the flexibility of supply work. You get to experience multiple locations and find the right fit and role for you.
Can you explain the mechanics of this experience? How often do you fly back and forth from Alderney to home?
Initially, I was only here for a week, so I flew in on a Sunday and then flew back that Friday afternoon. I then came back to work for two weeks, which got extended for a month. I was able to fly home, see family, and stock up on the things I’d need to live and work for a longer time frame. In total, I flew back and forth about five times since January.
How hard is it to be away from home, family and friends unexpectedly like this? This wasn’t a job you set out to do. It came to you.
I would say my main personal sacrifice in all of this has been not seeing my family. We’re very close. So it’s definitely been an adjustment for us, but we do our best to keep in touch regularly.
It’s interesting that you mention sacrifice. Because a sacrifice is what you make for something bigger than yourself, the greater good. And one of the things we talk about at Humly is the global educator shortage. Where up to 69 million classrooms and nurseries won’t have an educator by 2030. You wouldn’t think of this happening in the UK, but with a small locale like Alderney, it can and did. And without you, these children wouldn’t have someone to help them grow and develop. Has this experience changed your perspective on education and its vital importance?
Definitely – being on this island where Humming Bees is the only under-two childcare provider, it’s so important that these children get the socialisation of being in a nursery with other children and getting the necessary level of care from myself and the nursery team. We constantly give them new opportunities and experiences, which are so vital to their development at this crucial age.
After going through these months of working and sacrificing your time away from home but making a real difference in the lives of Alderney’s children, what are your biggest takeaways?
The best thing about this experience has definitely been working with such lovely children. But I can’t say enough about working with the brilliant Humming Bees nursery team. They’ve been so helpful, gracious, and welcoming throughout this amazing opportunity. And, of course, experiencing and exploring Alderney has been wonderful. I’d never even heard of it before coming here, but it is such a beautiful place to call home.
Millie Smale’s less-than-two-mile commute
It didn’t take long for Humming Bees to realise how amazing Millie is as an educator. That’s why they stopped recruiting for a permanent replacement – they had already found her.
“This opportunity was only meant to be for four weeks. But it kept getting extended and extended until they offered me the full-time deputy manager role – and I took it. I’ve grown to love living in Alderney and working at Humming Bees with my amazing children and team. And I’m excited to grow professionally, as I have never been in a management position before,” said Smales.
And while Millie’s story amazes us, it doesn’t surprise us at all. Not one bit.
Because Millie’s story is the educator’s story. It’s your story.
It demonstrates how you’ll go above and beyond for your job because it’s not just a job – it’s your calling. And whether you travel 240 miles or 2.4 miles, the real distance that matters is how far you’ll go to make a difference and improve the lives of the children you educate.
And it’s why Humly’s proud to be there with you – every step of the way.