Thomas Hilton-Lee has finally realised his dream of opening his own pre-school after being quizzed for 5 hours by social services.

Early Steps Pre-school at Waterlea Adventure Playground was due to open in January, but lengthy checks of the new childcare provider delayed this. After a gruelling 5 hour grilling by West Sussex County Council staff, 25 year old Mr Hilton-Lee was finally able to open the doors to his first business.

Mr Hilton-Lee explained that he did not mind the vigorous checks, as he himself is a stickler for getting everything right. He stated:

"Because I'm the owner I am vetted quite intensely compared to other staff, so it took that little bit longer to open.”

"It took about eight weeks to get everything checked, then I was questioned for about five hours to make sure I had all my paperwork up-to-date. I've never experienced anything like it in my life.”

"I'm very particular about having all my paperwork sorted out and in terms of the children's safeguarding, so at the end they were ecstatic with everything."

So far, Early Steps has 7 children on its books with another 12 due to start next month. The pre-school is very much a family affair with his mother working in the setting, and parents fully encouraged to volunteer.

Mr Hilton-Lee explained:

"My mum used to manage a pre-school years ago but she didn't want to do all the paperwork anymore. She wanted to actually work with the kids.”

"The nursery has a real family feel and that's something I think is missing from a lot of other places. Some of the big ones feel more like business”.

He started out in childcare as an apprentice, earning less than what he was spending on travel, but just 3 years on it has all paid off:

"It doesn't feel like I'm going to work. To see that it's something I have built is amazing."

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