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Pair celebrate 30 years providing special memories to hundreds of children and families

PUBLISHED: 10:31 10 October 2019 | UPDATED: 10:39 10 October 2019

Johnny and Justine Watts, managers of Little Owls Day Nursery, are celebrating running and managing nursery schools in the Dereham area for the past three decades. Picture: WATTS FAMILY

Johnny and Justine Watts, managers of Little Owls Day Nursery, are celebrating running and managing nursery schools in the Dereham area for the past three decades. Picture: WATTS FAMILY

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A pair of educators have reached an important milestone after running and managing nursery schools in the Dereham area for the past three decades.

A child enjoys playtime at Little Owls in Scarning, ahead of the opening of a new baby room. Picture: JUSTINE WATTSA child enjoys playtime at Little Owls in Scarning, ahead of the opening of a new baby room. Picture: JUSTINE WATTS

Johnny and Justine Watts, managers of Little Owls Day Nursery, are celebrating the 30-year landmark this month and said it highlights the "hard work and dedication" they have given to children and families in the local community.

"We are now caring for children whose parents we cared for 30 years ago," Mrs Watts added. "When we set up our first nursery, there was myself, one member of staff and a handful of children. Today, we employ 57 members of staff and care for 257 children."

The duo first opened their doors on October 2, 1989, under the name of the East Dereham Day Nursery. At that time, the nursery operated from Jentique and Metamec social centre on Norwich Road.

In the July of the following year, they secured their own premises and moved the nursery into Theatre Street.

Norwich City footballer Anthony Pilkington at the opening of the new nursery with his wife Jo, and their children, along with Johnny and Justine Watts.Norwich City footballer Anthony Pilkington at the opening of the new nursery with his wife Jo, and their children, along with Johnny and Justine Watts.

Over the next 15 years, the pair built up and developed the nursery as well as setting up Fun Stop - an after school and holiday club.

In 2003, they had the opportunity to bid for a new nursery in Mattishall and were successful. Once they reopened this nursery, Little Owls Day Nursery was born.

For the next two years, Mrs Watts managed and developed Little Owls, in addition to opening Hoots after school and holiday club at Mattishall Primary School. During this time, Mr Watts continued to manage Dereham Day Nursery.

Then in 2005, the parents-of-two took the decision to sell the East Dereham Day Nursery and concentrate on developing Little Owls Day Nursery while working together.

The yoga and wellbeing sessions
Picture: Justine WattsThe yoga and wellbeing sessions Picture: Justine Watts

Mrs Watts said: "Although we were based in Mattishall, we constantly received lots of requests from families in Dereham to move the back to the area, which we successfully achieved in 2008 when we bought School Lane in Toftwood.

"We then commenced the huge task of moving the entire nursery to Toftwood and then re-locating the after school club."

Since 2008, the couple purchased a premises on School Lane and opened a baby nursery named Tawny Owls.

Finally, in September 2017 they opened the second Little Owl's Day Nursery in Scarning.

Reuben Hawes-Smedley and Gracie Howlett both aged 3. Picture: Johnny and Justine WattsReuben Hawes-Smedley and Gracie Howlett both aged 3. Picture: Johnny and Justine Watts

"The secret to our success is simple - our amazing staff teams, constantly developing our nurseries, always putting our children and families first and a strong and healthy marriage to be able to work and live together."

Hoots after school club at Toftwood Junior School has been rated outstanding by Ofsted. Pictured at the front are Johnny and Justine Watts with (L) day manager Charlotte Meachen and (R) lead manager Holly Parnell. Picture: Ian BurtHoots after school club at Toftwood Junior School has been rated outstanding by Ofsted. Pictured at the front are Johnny and Justine Watts with (L) day manager Charlotte Meachen and (R) lead manager Holly Parnell. Picture: Ian Burt

Proprietor Justine Watts at former The East Dereham Day Nursery with Dylan Canton, 2, left, Daisy Farmer, 3 and Jade Burton, 2.Proprietor Justine Watts at former The East Dereham Day Nursery with Dylan Canton, 2, left, Daisy Farmer, 3 and Jade Burton, 2.

You may also want to watch:

Little Owls.....Three year-olds, Emily Baker and  Adam Bales with Justine Watts at the day centre in Mattishall. Photographer: Graham CorneyLittle Owls.....Three year-olds, Emily Baker and Adam Bales with Justine Watts at the day centre in Mattishall. Photographer: Graham Corney

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