The founder of a Midland nursery group which 30 years later sold for £220 million is to be given an honorary doctorate at a Birmingham City University.

John Woodward, founder Busy Bees childcare, will be honoured at a ceremony at the university next week – a year after the company was sold to a Canadian pension fund.

Mr Woodward, who was born in Walsall, John started his career almost 40 years ago as a school teacher and is now widely recognised by his industry peers for his major contribution to the nursery and early years education sector.

Unable to find flexible and good quality day-care for their own children, along with his wife and friends, they cooked up the idea of opening their own day care nursery that would meet all their parental needs.

Now the largest childcare provider in the country, Busy Bees operates 213 nurseries throughout the UK and employs over 7,000 staff. The Busy Bees brand is set to go international after partnering with the Ontario Teacher’ Pensions Plan in 2013.

He has recently been appointed to the Advisory Board of Estro Catalpa, the largest pre-school operator in the Netherlands and has been the global chief executive of Knowledge Universe Education, which has significant multi-site educational interests in Singapore, Malaysia and India.