Meet our Direct Employment Services Team

Together the Direct Employment Services Team offer management support to 32 groups across Highland and 1 in Moray, of which 26 are fully managed and 7 staff managed. The groups consist of Early Learning and Childcare, Out of School and Daycare centres.

Donalda Maclean, Operations Manager

I have worked within the childcare sector for a number of years and have been with CALA since 2008. As Operations Manager, I oversee all the managers/groups/practitioners and also do HR work for the company.

There is never a dull moment, always lots of challenges but I am fortunate to be part of one big happy, working ‘family’. I also feel I am privileged as I get to see some of the most amazing scenery on my journeys throughout the Highlands and Moray and driving long journeys allows for lots of planning and thinking time!

I have three lovely grandchildren, and spend the majority of any spare time I have with them, ensuring we have lots of fun times together.

Mary Ramsay, Direct Services Coordinator

I moved to the Highlands in 2014, and still find it such a stunning environment. In my role as Direct Services Coordinator, I am fortunate enough to travel to various locations and have some time to enjoy the beautiful views.

Many years ago, as a social care worker, I spent some time in a childcare centre and realised how fun and exciting the sector was. I have worked in childcare ever since, and still thoroughly enjoy it. 

When I’m not working, I like adventure sports, camping, and hiking up mountains.

Jackie Stewart, Direct Services Coordinator

Having worked in childcare for over 20 years, I have had the opportunity to work with children from 2 – 12 years in a variety of services including Early Learning and Out of School Care in both Highland and Moray.

In June 2019, I took up the position of Direct Services Co-ordinator for CALA. No two days are the same and there’s always something new to learn within the role and there is a great team within CALA to support this learning and any challenges that may arise.

Any spare time is spent with family and especially with my two grandchildren. 

Kirsty Hunter, Mentoring Support Officer

I have lived and worked in the beautiful Highlands my whole life. My career journey began with volunteering at Raigmore’s Children’s Ward as a Play Services Worker. I went on to support young families, mentor vulnerable young people and work in residential care for looked after young people. I have enjoyed incredible roles where I have coordinated an outreach service for children and young people experiencing domestic abuse, developed youth work participation projects and forums and coordinated media based youth lead campaigns and projects. Throughout all of these amazing roles I have drawn on my passion for empowering children and young people to feel listened to, have a voice and be heard. And above all, have hope.

Following an interrupted adolescence and education due to illness I studied for a BA in Child and Youth Studies as a mature student, alongside raising my young family. I then completed my SVQ III during my time as a residential childcare worker. I love nothing more than spending time with my little family and our many rescue animals. When I ever have any free time I volunteer at a local animal sanctuary and create pretty things with glass.

Childhood Practice Managers


Michele Garner, Childhood Practice Manager

I have been working for CALA for 21 years in a variety of roles starting off as a fieldworker, spending a couple of years as a toddler facilitator on the Isle of Skye, and about 15 years, as a Manager of pre-school centres and out of school clubs.

I have two daughters and three grandchildren and a dog, Breagha, whom some of you will have seen on the CALA blog. I sing in a band, and I’m a pyrographer, I like to burn pictures on wood!

Julia McNeil, Childhood Practice Manager

I have been with CALA since September 2006. I currently manage two Early Years sites down Loch Ness which means I travel some beautiful country side on a weekly basis. I also manage three Out of School Clubs in Inverness, one of which is open for Holiday periods.

The holiday club has allowed us to access outings to Kincraig, Fort George and many more which have also been good fun.

I am a mum of two grown up girls embarking on their chosen careers which leaves my husband and I to enjoy a bit of walking and lots of cycling.

Alison Morrison Smith, Childhood Practice Manager

I have been working in Junior World in Nairn for 10 years in a variety of roles, starting off as a part-time helper in Out of School Care, then spending some years in Early Years as a Playworker and as a one to one support. I then became a Senior in Out of School Care which is where I found I was most comfortable and enjoyed this role and working with the older children.

In 2012 I became the Senior in the new Daycare facility and with the rest of the team, we now have a very busy and successful service for children aged 2-5-year-old.

In 2014 I reduced my hours at Junior World to mornings to able me to fulfil my role as a CPM in the afternoons. Within the role, I am responsible for 4 Out of School Services and a breakfast club. I enjoy this new position and the different people I get to work alongside many different professions and background.

Annarie Heneghan, Childhood Practice Manager

I have worked for CALA for the last 16 years and during this time I have gained qualifications to match the childcare roles I have held. I most recently gained a BA Childcare Practice and am currently the Manager of Sutherland Stepping Stones Childcare Centre and Golspie ELC.

On a personal note, I have two daughters and a son and am also blessed with three beautiful grandsons. In my spare time I like to spend time with my family and new puppy Hunter who is very lively. I enjoy reading, socializing and anything crafty. 

Ruth Gomes, Childhood Practice Manager

I began my career in childcare eleven years ago volunteering in a school nursery. This inspired me to gain some formal qualifications in Early Education. I began studying and went on to complete my BA in Childhood Practice. This led on to me managing an outdoor preschool in the Highlands. I gained a wealth of knowledge and experience in outdoor education and really value the benefits of outdoor play for children of all ages. After some time off to care for my young family, I joined CALA as a Childhood Practice Manager in April 2018.

I currently manage four Nurseries and one Out of School Club for CALA. It is such a diverse role with no two days ever the same, I feel very fortunate to get to travel around some lovely parts of the Highlands; meeting and working with lots of other people.

At home I am kept busy with my three boys; walking our dogs, going on trips, watching movies together and trying to beat each other at Monopoly!

Donna Sinclair, Childhood Practice Manager

After spending many years working within safety and works control, an opportunity arose to change career path after having my 3 children.  Since then I have spent 9 years in childcare running my own childminding business and acting as a relief practitioner in Highland Early Learning Centres.  

After completing my SVQ 3 and beginning my degree in Childhood Practice I now manage 3 Early Learning Childcare Centres, Reay, Watten and Norlin and also provide support to the CALA Childminder Members.   I am enjoying the challenges this position provides whilst caring for my 3 children.

Rebecca Ross, Childhood Practice Manager

My name is Rebecca Ross, I have worked in childcare for over ten years in the local area caring for children aged 6 months to 12 years. I previously worked in a local authority nursery in the pre-school age group before joining CALA in February 2019, where I now oversee three sites.

I have 2 children of my own, Callum is seven and Katie is five and they keep me on my toes. I am currently in my 3rd year of my degree in Childhood Practice.