Meet the Team
Ruth Salway – Head Teacher
Ruth first joined our company in 1998 as an Early Years teacher and Supervisor. As Head teacher she now leads and inspires a strong team of well qualified and motivated Early Years Professionals, Teachers and Practitioners in the effective delivery of pre-school education and child development at Willow Cottage.
Ruth grew up in Plymouth, coming to Oxford to study for her degree in teaching. She was one of the first in the country to achieve her Early Years Professional Status (EYPS) in 2007.
Sam Hitchman – Bletchingdon Setting Manager
Sam joined Willow Cottage in early 2016 to establish and manage our Bletchingdon Setting. She is a graduate and hold Early Years Professional Status. She is an experienced Forest School leader and helps our other settings develop and diversify their outdoor play and education.
Jess Mills – Eynsham Setting Manager
Toni Gaul – Farmoor Setting Manager
Toni joined out team in 2016 at the Farmoor Kindergarten Room Leader before taking on a pioneering role developing quality teaching and practice, working across all of our setting. She holds foundation degree in Early Years and in 2019 she became Setting Manager for Farmoor.
Jim Grady – Director
James Grady (Jim) joined Willow Cottage in 2013 to support the directors and management team with the ever increasing demands of the nursery sector. He works hard behind the scenes to ensure the smooth operation of nurseries, supporting both the administration team and the setting managers to ensure the nursery runs to the highest standards.
Adam Grady – Director
Adam has joined our team as our Quality Manager, with the aim of developing and promoting the wonderful work already being done at Willow Cottage; supporting our management team in our continued commitment to high quality childcare.
As Quality Manager he will look to be continually improving the practices, processes and behaviours that underpin a safety culture (His favourite phrase is “What Went Well? and what could be Even Better If?”). He will Lead on quality related investigations and complaints. Coach, train and mentor staff to develop their knowledge and practice.
Andrea Bessenyei – Senior Bookkeeper
Andrea started working at Willow Cottage in 2019 and is a qualified teacher of Geography and German language as well as having a degree in economics. She moved from Hungary to the UK in 2011.
Andrea loves to garden and has a green thumb when it comes to both indoor and outdoor plants. She often brightens up the office with different varieties of succulents and begonias.
Lisa Constable – HR and Recruitment
Lisa joined Willow Cottage in 2020 but has worked in the Early Years sector for almost 25 years. With both hands on practice and management experience, and putting her own children through nursery, Lisa hit the ground running supporting our parent’s with the the smooth running of their accounts.
Following the retirement of our HR officer Lisa has recently stepped in to this role alongside her recruitment responsibilities.
Alison Morris – Quality Provision Officer
Alison has worked at Willow Cottage for over 15 years, joining us in 2007. She returned to England having spent a year in Ontario, Canada working in childcare with children aged 0-15.
Alison began her Early Years career at age 15 working in various nurseries, schools and preschools before studying Philosophy and Sociology at The University of Kent.
She holds an EYPS certification and is passionate about the Quality of Early Years provision we provide in all areas, and has a particular enthusiasm for literacy, outdoor provision, the staff team and the development of our menus.
Valerie Grady – Proprietor
Valerie is the Founding Director of Willow Cottage Nurseries overseeing the pre-school education, child development, recruitment, food and nutrition.
Born in Witney, she grew up and went to school in Eynsham and later studied Food Science & Nutrition at Queen Elizabeth College under Professor John Yudkin and Professor Arnold Bender, and gained her first degree from London University in 1975. After her marriage to Neil, she gained a Post Graduate Certificate in Education at Warwick University and later taught Home Economics in Coventry before opening Willow Cottage Nurseries.
In 2009, Valerie updated her nursery skills by gaining Post Graduate Early Years Professional Status at Oxford Brookes University.
Valerie is committed to raising standards of Nursery Care and Pre-school Education through establishing competent teams of professional and motivated staff.
Neil Grady – Proprietor
Neil became an executive director at Willow Cottage in 2002 after a 25 years career in IT business systems design and development within the private sector serving the Ministry of Defence. He works alongside his wife Valerie (Founding Director) to ensure that our nursery systems support high standards of childcare and pre-school education.
In 2008 Neil was appointed to the Oxfordshire Schools Forum to represent the 325 Private, Voluntary and Independent Providers of Early Years Education & Childcare.