Meet The Team
The ADO Mini-Explorers team is part of the ADO Academy which is supported by the experienced team behind Animal Days Out C.I.C.. Let us have a look at our team on the ground.
Tara Thompson - Outdoor Teaching Manager
In October 2018, Tara joined the ADO team as the Outdoor Teaching Manager! Tara will be the direct manager for the preschool team and will liaise with Lesley on the running of the preschool.
After qualifying as a Montessori Teacher, Tara spent several years working in a Montessori Preschool. Tara organised regular trips to the woods, where she observed the children flourishing. It wasn’t long before her passion for outdoors led her to enrol on a Forest School Course! Tara will be leading the Forest School activities with the Mini Explorers and sharing her wealth of knowledge and experiences with the team.
Tara’s teaching practice is centred around the holistic and child led approach, which is perfect for our lovely preschool! Tara believes children’s natural curiosity needs to be fostered wherever possible.
Tara will lead the team to ensure our continued outstanding childcare!
Lesley Bonynge – Welfare Manager
Lesley joined the ADO team in March 2018 and has thrived in the outdoor education environment. Lesley is a devoted member of the team and quickly settled in as the Operations Manager. Lesley joined our outdoor preschool with enthusiasm and has given us many new exciting ideas to enable the preschool to grow even more.
Lesley has over 13 years of experience working in child care and she is able to bring this wealth of experience and knowledge to the team. During her career, Lesley has achieved Level 2 and 3 NVQ qualifications. Lesley loves working with the children, it is her ideal career and she couldn't imagine doing anything else!
Lesley has a young daughter of her own, so she has first-hand experience and feels she can share this with parents/carers to relate with them on a personal level. Lesley is looking forward to her daughter starting at the preschool and becoming a Mini Explorer!
Catherine Epps – Operations & Holiday Club Manager
Catherine joined our team in May 2019. She has a huge wealth of knowledge working outdoors, with over 22 years of experience in the area!
Catherine has various outdoor qualifications (NGB's) such as Archery, Forest School, Canoeing, Bushcraft and many others. She brings many skills to the preschool which hugely benefits the children and staff! She loves getting hands on with nature, which is essential for being in the Mini Explorer's Garden!
Before starting with ADO Mini Explorers, Catherine worked at an Outdoor Education Centre. Whilst there, she lead and taught children, young people and adults about outdoor sports/water sports, bushcraft, forest school and nature. She particularly enjoyed running archery lessons with the children and seeing their reactions when they hit the target!
Catherine loves being outside and her favourite things are seeing the changing of seasons and how nature can help people to relax and ignite their curiosity to explore.
She loves being outdoors, whatever the weather!
Ebony Henry – Outdoor Educator & SENCo
We had a lovely new addition in April 2019, when Ebony joined the team! Ebony is very happy and bubbly and full of ideas for the preschool garden and activities with the children!
Ebony started her childcare career in 2011, so has a large amount of experience under her belt already. Through this experience, she has gained her Level 3 in Early Years. She also has plenty of personal experience with her own young son!
Ebony was the SENCo in her previous role and is excited to be the SENCo at Mini Explorers. Ebony has previously worked at indoor settings, but as they started to introduce forest school, Ebony realised she had a passion for the outdoors which she wanted to further explore! So she decided to join ADO and fully embrace being outdoors with the children!
Ebony has a passion for animals and had rabbits when she was younger. She also loves music and movement! She has an amazing singing voice and we're excited to see what she will be introducing to the preschool garden as well as ideas for the AP site!
Maria Edwards - Outdoor Educator (Level 3)
Maria is on maternity leave from 20th September 2019.
Maria has worked in childcare since 2012 and has gained a huge amount of knowledge and experience in this time. She has achieved her Level 2 and Level 3 qualifications in childcare. Maria has a wealth of experience within childcare, by caring for her own five daughters!
Maria has a real passion for caring for others. On top of her childcare experience, Maria has also worked with young adults with challenging behaviour and special needs.
Maria loves sharing her experiences and ideas with others. One of the many reasons she enjoys working in childcare is her passion and dedication to making learning fun and seeing the children progress. We are very pleased to have Maria join our team so she can share her huge amount of knowledge and experience with us and the Mini Explorers!
Bethany King - Outdoor Educator (Level 3)
Bethany will be the maternity cover for Maria from 19th September 2019.
Bethany has been working with children since 2006, so has over 13 years' experience in childcare. Bethany has worked with a range of ages from 3 months to 13 years, which will provide her with valuable experience working at ADO!
Bethany holds a CACHE certificate and NVQ Level 3 in Childcare and Education.
Previously, Bethany has worked as a Room Leader in a nursery, working with children aged 3 months - 1 year old. She has also been a Sole Charge Nanny for almost 9 years. On top of this professional experience, Bethany also has personal experience with her own young daughter.
Bethany loves being outdoors and enjoys visiting the woods, beach, country parks and farms. She is very excited to participate in the woodland walks and adventures with the Mini Explorers! She also loves building natural dens and exploring rivers, so will be bringing her passion for this to the Mini Explorers!
Claire Arter - Outdoor Educator (Level 3)
Claire has been working in childcare since 2011, so has gained a large amount of education and experience in this area.
Claire started her childcare journey working in a leisure centre, where she was a play leader for five years. She has since completed college placements and spent a year as a Nursery Nurse.
Claire has always had a passion for the outdoors and since joining ADO in September 2019, this passion has already grown! Claire has thrown herself in to the ways of Forest School and Bushcraft and has been enjoying the different ways of teaching and learning and especially enjoys camp fires!
In her spare time, Claire enjoys spending time with her family and friends. She particularly enjoys days out and activities with her younger cousins.
Eloise Greenwood - Business & Exams Officer
Eloise has been with ADO since 2013 and has proved herself a valuable member of the team! Eloise has shown versatility in her time with ADO and her skills have grown with the company. Eloise started out volunteering with community events and company photography. She moved in to the office to help with the ever increasing administration, whilst assisting with the running of after school clubs and holiday clubs.
In February 2016, ADO Mini Explorers Preschool opened and Eloise was there from Day 1. Eloise helped out in the preschool with a mix of administration and childcare until she decided to dedicate herself to undertaking a Level 2 qualification in Early Years Care and Education. Eloise worked daily with the Mini Explorers and thoroughly enjoyed her time at the preschool and being part of the children’s exciting learning journey!
In March 2018, Eloise made the brave decision to return back to the office to help the company to grow further and develop the Alternative Provision, which will help vulnerable children and young people. Eloise is now the Business and Exams Officer for ADO and shows true dedication and hard work to this demanding role. She also assists with the therapy admin, preschool invoicing and current Mini Explorer requests, handles the holiday club administration and all other enquiries. She is the backbone of the office!
Julie Longhurst - Operations Assistant
Julie is our preschool whizz in the office and she handles all the preschool new starters and July leavers. If you call the office to enquire about the preschool, you'll likely talk to Julie and she will guide you through the next steps and enrolling your child as a Mini Explorer! Julie was originally a volunteer and moved to working in the office and has now been with us over two years and has proved a valuable member of the team with a very calm and caring nature. Julie's youngest son, is heavily involved with our Holiday Clubs and is about to become an official Mentor!
Joe Greenwood - Horticulture Level 2
The preschool grounds and maintenance are up kept by Joe who has a level 2 in horticulture. Joe works hard to ensure all of the outdoor areas at ADO are of a high standard and he also offers community garden services for individuals and schools through ADO. Joe has built many of the features in the preschool garden, including the play house and the mud kitchen, which the children love! Joe used to run the Gardening After-School Club at the preschool and worked with one of the Mentors, who has now taken on the role of running the gardening club. This has allowed Joe to focus on the project work across all areas of ADO.
Katie O'Brien - Senior Manager and Therapist
Katie is the senior manager for all areas of ADO, she will also become the Head of School once our Alternative Provision receives independent school status.
She was fully involved in the operations of the preschool and lead the preschool visits for a lengthy period but has recently handed that over to the preschool managers to enable her to focus on the newest ADO project which is the Alternative Provision. If you would like to know more information about the Alternative Provision click HERE.
Kate has worked at ADO since 2013 and has gained a wealth of experience and skills. She is a Bushcraft Practitioner and has an Animal Assisted Therapy Diploma, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy Diploma and Animal Management Diploma. More recently, Kate attended a Neuro Linguistic Course, and is keen for NLP techniques to be transferred into all areas of ADO. With her knowledge and experience with therapy, Kate is able to advise and support the preschool managers on supporting children with SEN, Challenging behaviour, and if they are EAL due to various courses attended, and experience gained in the therapy side of the business.
Victoria McHolland-Pilcher - Education & Therapy Director
The ADO Academy is headed by Victoria McHolland-Pilcher, our Education and Therapy Director. Victoria also leads our ADO Therapy teams and has over 16 years Project Management and Business Consultancy experience and qualifications working for large firms in London and across the country.
Victoria's life history includes a lifelong love of supporting youth and community programs and with a family heavily involved in youth and community, spent many summers supporting holiday schemes for deprived children and young people. Victoria has undertaken both the Forest School Leader Level 3 course and is also a Bushcraft Practitioner with several years experience of implementing these programs within our existing childcare clubs.
Victoria is a Low Ropes Course Instructor and Low Ropes Constructor, enabling her to run Low Ropes courses for ADO. Victoria also holds qualifications in Animal Assisted Therapy, Cognitive Behaviour Therapy and is a qualified Relaxation Therapist. With a therapy team on hand, we are in a strong position to support children with SEND requirements where required.
Each after school club has a different themed activity. These are run by our amazing Mentors, who dedicate their time and show a passion for working with the children during the after school club. The core team work closely with the Mentors to plan the after school club activities and support them on the start of their childcare journey. There are photos of the Mentors outside the preschool on the parent noticeboard.
The ADO Team
Some other members of the ADO Team may be at the preschool at various times whilst your child is attending the setting. They are there to help support the preschool and assist with upkeep and maintenance. There are staff sheets on the parent noticeboard which have images of all staff involved with the preschool. All staff involved with the preschool have enhanced DBS checks. The whole operation is backed by key staff at head office where our operational team are the cogs in the machine that make our Mini-Explorers Preschool tick. We have 8 years of operational experience running after-school and holiday clubs for young children and young people. Not forgetting our wonderful animals that we regard as being part of our team and the animal care team that looks after them. Our team operates across many areas of the business supporting our animal, wildlife, nature and outdoor activities for all our brands and services. The ADO Team partner with Kylanja Ltd T/A Animal Days Out, with over 25 years of operational experience working for large companies in the London West End and City. The ADO team and partnership ensure that their is full support behind growing our Preschool.
As a not for profit Community Interest Company, we could not achieve all that we do without our wonderful volunteers that support many of our programs including our after school clubs, holiday programs, community events and therapy. We encourage volunteers to help in our preschool and are always looking for reliable volunteers who have experience in childcare settings, young people on work experience, parents wanting to get back into work or those wanting to undertake childcare placements with us. We also work with the Apprenticeship scheme across our company. All Preschool volunteers will require reference checks and an enhanced DBS check.
We have various education session workers in our team who will support the preschool who are multi trained in delivering educational animal encounters, animal handling and animal therapy to childrens centres, schools and nurseries who are on hand as needed.
We will at various times of the year require additional qualified Preschool staffing to cover holidays, absences and growth. We are especially looking for session workers with Childcare Level 2 and 3 to be on our books planning ahead for our growth. If this is you and you love the outdoors - get in touch!