John Woodward, who has died aged 65 after suffering from a brain tumour, did much to enable a generation of parents to return to work. Not only did his chain of Busy Bees nurseries fill a gaping hole in the market for early years education when it was founded in 1984, but his pioneering childcare voucher scheme has made pre-school an affordable option for many.

Woodward recognised the financial burden that the high cost of childcare places on families. Now called Busy Bees Benefits, the scheme that he started in 1998 allows people to sacrifice a capped portion of their salary to pay for childcare – so parents can write off their costs against tax. It now delivers vouchers to more than 16,500 employers across the UK, ranging from smaller businesses to national organisations.

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