‘The end of an era’ as Tadpoles manager Pam Gray retires

Tadpoles manager Pam Gray with some of her little pupils
Tadpoles manager Pam Gray with some of her little pupils

Her office is a like a mini Piccadilly Circus – there’s always something going on.

At the moment there’s a mum doing a recce to see whether the baby and toddler unit Pam Gray has run for the past 14 years will be suitable for her new baby (it is); another who’s just heard that Pam is retiring and has popped in to say she’ll be sadly missed; and a third who buried her mother the previous day wants to thank Pam personally for her support.

It’s obvious that she’s universally adored – not only by the mums who trust her with their precious offspring, but also by the children themselves and her loyal staff, many of whom have been with her for years.

There’s huge sadness that she’s decided to call it a day but lots of laughter as everyone recalls the happy times they’ve shared.

Pam, 68, remembers one hilarious parents’ event: “It was a lovely summer evening and we were having a barbcue.

“We rolled the piano out into the garden and someone complained about the noise. When the police arrived at 11pm, they couldn’t believe they’d been called to a nursery.”

The grandmother-of-two trained as a nursery nurse at St Albans College of Further Education.

“I always wanted to work with children,” she says simply. “There was nothing else even on the horizon.”

For the past four decades, she’s been a much-loved and familiar face at many Luton schools, including Warden Hill, Icknield and Foxdale.

Tadpoles was opened as an offshoot of Grasmere Nursery School, catering for working mums and those going to university.

It started with 12 children, taking babies of three months to toddlers of three.

“We’ve now got 90 children – and a long waiting list,” Pam says.

“I designed the building as open plan, so you can see where everything is.

“I’ve always wanted it to be like a home-from-home and there’s always lots of banter.”

Pam credits her staff of 22 with Tadpoles’ success and says they’ve all got that extra something.

She explains: “You can educate people, you can lead by example but you’ve got to choose people who want to be here, who have that special sparkle.”

Admin assistant Carol Lawrence claims she speaks for everyone when she says: “We’re all going to miss her very much, we’re like her extended family. She’s a very warm, kind and caring person with a fun sense of humour.”

Pam won’t discuss why she’s leaving but you get the distinct impression she’s a people person and she’s finally had enough of the bureacracy.

“Life’s changing,” she smiles. “And I want to go out on a high.”