Meet the Staff

Darren & Kate Taylor


Darren Taylor: Degree – Bachelor of Education (with Honours), National Nursery Education Board Qualified, Early Years Professional Status

Kate Taylor: Degree – Bachelor of Education (with Honours)

Securing, renovating and then opening Sandcastles in September 2000 was a massive leap of faith for us.  We had a young family and we took a chance on something we believed in.  It was both scary and exciting in equal measure.  Possibly, if you’re doing something for the right reasons and certainly, if you’re prepared to work hard, you have a higher chance of succeeding.  Sandcastles has succeeded from the day we opened.

It has changed a great deal over the years as children have come and gone along with, from time to time, staff.  We have also seen much change within government and at local level which has brought new ideas and legislation.  Change, at times, can seem daunting and sometimes frustrating but reflecting back, even though the children have always received outstanding care and education (and you don’t need to take our word for this, Ofsted have found this to be the case at every inspection), the opportunities the children have now seem endless with so much freedom to be able to access all areas and resources independently.

We consider ourselves so fortunate to have jobs that provide such variety and ones where we can and do, really make a difference to young lives.  It’s wonderful to be able to adapt areas to constantly provide the children with new and exciting opportunities.  It’s also wonderful to work alongside such an amazing group of people.

Parent partnership has also changed over the years.  We have always had strong links with our families but with social media, the sharing of information has become far easier and quicker, to the benefit of all.  Providing excellent customer service is extremely important to us.   We work hard to ensure we offer what is now possibly an old-fashioned service – personal, polite, caring and efficient with a common-sense approach.

In the early days, staff management was probably our biggest challenge as, being teachers, it was something new for us to master.  Putting ourselves on training courses helped but in reality, there’s nothing better than experience.  Like all things here, our staffing team has gone from strength to strength.  We really do work as a team and are all the better for it.  We are very pleased therefore, to introduce to you our excellent, dedicated, highly skilled staffing team all of whom play a key role in making Sandcastles the outstanding setting that it is.

Sarah Connor


I have been a part of the Sandcastles team since 2003. I have ascended to manager through my years here and am passionate about the home from home environment and atmosphere that we have created. As a setting we have an ‘open door policy’ and this couldn’t be truer of my office door. Children, parents and my team will happily pop in, testament to the relationships that are intrinsic to the running of such a large setting. I am ever present in rooms, enabling me to have a hands-on knowledge of the practise and standards we have instilled and give me insight and opportunity to know all the children personally.

I enjoy working alongside our team to continuously challenge and develop our practise to achieve the highest standards in childcare and education. This can be by reflecting on our practice, analysing the curriculum, enhancing areas with redesign or new additions to our resources, or by identifying staff training needs. Whatever form it takes, I take pride in the fact that these actions are formulated from a collaboration to be proud of, my team.

To close, I am married and have two daughters. We love camping, music concerts and eating out.

Hollie Hennessy

Deputy Manager

I have been a part of the Sandcastles team since 2013.  Throughout this time I have been a nursery practitioner, Head of Starfish, Deputy Manager and am now also the Head of Dolphins (home to our Preschool aged children).  This has given me the opportunity to build relationships with many of the families that use Sandcastles and an understanding of all of the age groups in our care.  I hold a BA Hons degree in Early Childhood Studies and am always keen to refresh and increase my knowledge.  Everyday here is different and it is a pleasure to work in such a warm, friendly and fun atmosphere.  In my spare time I enjoy spending time with my family, cooking and socialising with friends and colleagues.

Dani Giggins

Head of Seahorses & Acting Deputy covering maternity leave

I have been working in childcare since 2010 and have been a part of the Sandcastles team since February 2014. Since joining, I have progressed to Head of Room, first with the 0-2 room and now the 2-3 room and am a part of the senior management team.  I have gained both a level 2 and 3 in child care working with various age groups. I am particularly passionate about the under 3’s, creating individual bonds with them and their families. I love watching them change and grow everyday.  Outside of work I enjoy spending all of my time with family and friends.

Aaron Hodges

Head of Dolphins (Pre-school)

I joined the Sandcastle’s team in 2012 as the chef.  Occasionally I would find myself helping to cover in the rooms which I really enjoyed.  Due to this, I decided to study to gain my level 2 and then level 3 Childcare qualifications and changed my role within Sandcastles to be a nursery practitioner.  I am now The Head of our Pre-School provision and am continuing to study.  I am currently working towards a BA Hons degree in Youth Childhood Studies.

Dani Wells

Head of Starfish

I joined the Sandcastles team in 2017 and completed my Level 3 Childcare qualification.  During my time as an apprentice, I gained experience with the baby and toddler age range.  I am now a Head of Room and have overseen the Seahorse Suite (toddlers) and am currently the head of our Starfish Suite (babies).  I enjoy gaining experience throughout the setting and supporting our staffing and management teams.  In my free time, I am currently studying for a degree in Early Childhood.  I enjoy spending time with friends and family as well as walking my dogs.


Beth Shulton

Assistant Head of Room Starfish

I joined the Sandcastles team in November 2018.  I have since achieved my NVQ Level 3 qualification.  I have gained experience in both the 0 – 2 room where I am currently based and the 2 – 3 room.  I enjoy supporting the children with their development and helping them gain in independence.  I love to get stuck in with messy play activities and whilst, as a setting, we plan in the moment, I fully recognise the need to ensure our younger children have varied, new, exciting play opportunities daily.  Prior to working at Sandcastles, I volunteered at a local primary school as a teacher’s assistant where I gained my teacher’s assistant qualification.  In my spare time, I enjoy solialising with my friends and family.

Claire Pritchard

Curriculum Leader

I joined Sandcastles team in September 2016 working with the preschool aged children.   I hold a Level 3 childcare qualification and have gained many years of experience.  I previously worked in a nursery and when I started my own family I registered as a childminder.  As a childminder I was able to tailor the learning to the individual and I feel at Sandcastles we are supporting the children in this way in a group environment.  I have a family of my own and can empathise with parents leaving them in the care of others. As a family we enjoy holidays, festivals, trips to the woods and spending time with our extended family.

Jackie Bryant

Senior Practitioner

I have enjoyed working with and caring for children in different environments for over twenty five years. Since joining Sandcastles team I have worked with various age groups from two up to school age children, all of which I have thoroughly enjoyed. I take pride in my work and enjoy watching the children grow and develop, being part of their success and achievements. I love my job as much today as I did when I started.

Kirsty Phillips

Nursery Practitioner

I gained my Level 3 BTEC National Diploma in Early years at SEEVIC in 2008. I have gained experience with all ages as a nanny to a family of five over the eight years that followed. I joined Sandcastles team in October 2017. Outside of Sandcastles I like to spend time with friends and family. I am also a member of a local gym that I regularly attend.


Natalie Wallace

Nursery Practitioner

I joined the sandcastles team in April 2019. I hold a childcare NVQ level 3 qualification. I enjoy fun and messy activities supporting their development, watching them learn, achieve and grow. In my spare time i enjoy shopping, socialising and spending time with my family, friends and walking my dog.


Sarah Potticary

Nursery Chef

My name is Sarah. I joined Sandcastles in June 2019 after a short career break from having two children. I have a level 3 catering GNVQ. I have previously worked as a chef for over 10 years. I enjoys cooking, swimming and having fun with my children.


Becky Thompson

Hi, my name is Becky.  I enrolled at Sandcastles as an apprentice in June ’21.  Since then, I have enjoyed working with Pre-school and Seahorses and have developed a passion for childcare.

In my spare time I like to spend time with my family, listening to music and seeing my friends.

Freya Dumbell

Nursery Apprentice

Hello, my name is Freya and I am currently working towards my level 3 in childcare.  In June ’21 I completed a degree in Furniture and Product Design.  During this I designed and manufactured a number of children’s furniture items – one of which has been put to good use in Dolphins!

In my spare time I enjoy sailing and am a Beaver Scout leader.

Mollie King

Nursery Practitioner

I have enjoyed working in childcare since 2012.  I’ve worked in a number of settings throughout those years, as well as nannying.  In January 2021, I joined Sandcastles as part of their team of bank staff.  I was soon offered a permanent position.  I currently hold a Level 2 in Childcare qualification and am planning to start my level 3.

I enjoy spending time with my little boy, my family and friends.

Cara Turpin

Senior Nursery Practitioner

I have been working with children for over 20 years.  I have extensive experience and knowledge in supporting children with special educational needs, specialising in autism.  Prior to joining Sandcastles, I worked for a learning support service in a wide range of settings, gaining many new skills along the way.

In my spare time I enjoy being creative, gardening, baking, making clay creations and sewing.

Courtney Tatham

Senior Nursery Practitioner

Megan Thomson

Nursery Practitioner

I have been working in childcare for almost 7 years since doing my work experience at school.  I volunteered in the summer holidays and worked part time whilst at college.  I took a couple of years out to work on the Royal Caribbean Cruise ships.  I completed my level 3 Advanced Childcare apprenticeship qualification in June ’21.  In my spare time I enjoy going to the theatre.  I especially love musicals.  I am a member of a local amateur dramatic society and perform in pantomimes in January every year at the Palace Theatre in Westcliff.

David Taylor

I am Darren’s Dad. I do work around the nursery to keep it looking nice and to make sure it is a safe place to be. You will always find me busy in the garden unless I have come inside to fix something. When I am not at Sandcastles I love to play bowls.