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A NEW pre-school with a focus on helping young children develop through exploring the outdoors is opening.
Early Steps Pre-School is going to open at Waterlea Adventure Playground, in Furnace Green, on January 5.
The nursery will be run out of the main building on the site and will have its own outdoor space, as well as access to the adventure playground equipment.
Owners Thomas Hilton-Lee and John Porritt want to offer a different type of early years provision.
Mr Porritt said: "We want to introduce a different style of teaching in Crawley.
"There is an educational method called forest schooling, and while we don't want to be a forest school we will be implementing some of these ideas.
"At Waterlea we have a huge outdoor area in a safe and secure environment.
"The outdoor environment offers endless opportunities to build self confidence and creativity.
"Children will get to work independently or in teams to build dens, go bug hunting or follow a treasure map.
"When they collect sticks we can help them compare who has the most to learn about numeracy."
When looking to set up a nursery in Crawley the owners found there was a huge demand for pre-school spaces in the town.
The target audience is families living in Furnace Green, Maidenbower, Pound Hill, Worth and Tilgate.
However, interest has been received from across Crawley.
Mr Porritt added: "Crawley has a shortage of early years education so we hope our pre-school will help families struggling to find places at reputable settings.
"We have researched the number of spaces across the town very carefully and found Maidenbower to be particularly under-subscribed.
"There are about 200 children who are either having to search for early years provision outside of Maidenbower or not accessing any.
"The existing pre-schools and nurseries in Maidenbower are outstanding but they don't have the space for the growing number of families living there."
The team was unable to find a community building in Maidenbower with spare space but made sure the site they found was within walking distance.
Changes have been made to the centre to make it more user-friendly for a pre-school, including new toilets and a nappy changing area being added, while decking has been removed to allow turf to be laid.
Mr Porritt explained that the four day-to-day staff will be continually monitored to make sure the highest standards are reached.
"Our team will undergo exams every term," he said. "We are aiming for high standards and this will help us to stand out from other early years settings."
The owners are also interested in helping parents who want to return to work by offering voluntary positions and training.
The pre-school will have a capacity of 32 children per session, which will run in term time.
Children aged two to school age will be accepted.
There will be weekday morning sessions running from 8.45am to 11.45am and afternoon sessions between 11.45am and 2.45pm.
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