Giving your child the support and attention they deserve 

Once Upon a Time is a family run business. It was founded by Helen O'Neill in 1999 and it is now managed by Rob O'Neill, her son. Helen's aim was to create a truly home from home child care experience and provide bespoke, high quality care for children under 5. This philosophy defines everything we do today.

Our managers are highly qualified, fully trained, experienced child care experts and all of our staff are Early Years Foundation Stage trained.  Having such experienced team enables us to take the very best ideas from a number of different teaching methods and find creative and exciting ways to deliver the curriculum. 

We have routines in place, these serve to give structure to our day, but we also listen and respond to what your child wants to do. We include a very wide range of fun learning activities and organised outings into our curriculum including; trips to the zoo and visits within the local community such as to the local bakery or library - which are always very popular with the children!  

Being small allows us to be spontaneous about when and how we incorporate extra-curricular activities into our days. Our more rounded approach to learning helps give our children a fabulous start and prepare them fully for the years ahead. 

In order to ensure that we maintain our exacting standards we support all of our staff in undertaking continuous professional development training. In addition we have two full time fully qualified pre-school teachers to oversee all of our curricular activities. 

Our Founder Helen

I have worked with children all of my life, originally as a teacher in primary school education. After 25 years of teaching I decided that my real passion was for working with very young children and so I set up my first nursery Once Upon a Time in Westbury-on-Trym in 1999.

My aim was simple; to create a home from home style nursery in a cosy and happy environment where caring, qualified staff would have the time to provide each child with the support and attention that they need and deserve.

We designed our nurseries to be as exciting and stimulating as possible. Our children are given the opportunity to experience a variety of activities throughout the day from art to cookery, from messy play to music and from singing and dressing up to computer skills - we do also allow down time for resting!

Our ethos of being a home from home environment permeates everything we do. We want to know each child and each parent so we can ensure we are looking after your child in the best way – your way. We aim to make the transition from home to nursery as easy and stress free as possible for both the child and the parents and we pride ourselves on being one big family. 

Helen O'Neill

B.A. Cert Ed with 25 years of teaching experience

Our Director Rob

Since I was young this nursery has been a huge part of my life. I grew up locally and one of my first jobs was as the nursery cleaner working every day for £25 per week! Becoming a director was a proud moment and I’m excited to lead the nurseries into an exciting new era. A lot has changed since we opened in 1999 but the values on which we were founded have stayed the same. 

I attended Westbury Park Primary School and later moved on to Queen Elizabeth’s Hospital School in the centre of Bristol. I have a degree in Accounting and Finance from the University of Birmingham and since university I studied to become a chartered accountant and spent 7 years working for PricewaterhouseCoopers as a specialist in performance improvement for a wide range of local and regional businesses.

Naturally, education and childcare has always been an important part of my life. My wife, Beccy, is Head of Science at a local secondary school and I have a son, Max, who was born in 2014 and a daughter, Edie, born in 2016. This only helps to reinforce my passion for education especially in the early years of a child’s life when the experiences they gain and the memories they make will change the way they live their lives forever. We are so proud to be trusted by so many parents to help develop their children in the best way possible.

Rob O'Neill

BSc (Hons), ACA

Mission Statement

To create a truly home from home child care experience by offering bespoke, high quality and brilliant care for children under 5. To provide caring, safe, fun, happy and engaging environments conducive to active learning, promoting children’s development and helping each child to reach their full potential.

Our Experienced Team


Ella Coles Manager

Toni has been working in day nurseries for over 10 years and has a GNVQ level 5 in management. Toni is wonderfully passionate and motivated and has brought lots of new ideas into the nursery, both as deputy manager and Cubs room leader and as manager. We are sure that Toni will continue to improve the nursery and further develop our offering to children and their families. We are proud and tremendously lucky to have someone of Toni's caliber leading our team here at Once Upon a Time.

Meet the Manager

Samantha Green Deputy Manager

Sam joined our team in 2023 but we have known her ever since she brought her son to our nursery a number of years ago! We always wanted to have her on board and now the kids are at school Sam has returned to work so we're thrilled that she has joined us and brought her wealth of experience to the team!

Lisa Whatley
Pre School Leader

Paige Goad
Baby Room Leader

Amber Davies

Melinda Fulop

Tash Norris

Kay Blake

Val Bradbeer

Jemma French

Megan Bowerman

What the parents say

“Thank you so much for all your care and support you have provided for Isaac and Max. They have loved being part of the preschool and will be sad to leave. We wish you all the best in the future.”

Alison Osborne

“A wonderful friendly home from home environment. I’ve had 2 daughters at Once Upon a Time and they have both been happy every day. They have been there full time for 6 months and I could not have asked for a better place for them.”

R. Wistow

“The staff are all friendly and caring and there is a safe, friendly and welcoming atmosphere at the nursery.”

Mr and Mrs Male