​"Staff use their exemplary quality of teaching to build on children's interests and extend their learning continuously. For example, as children enthusiastically explore three-dimensional shapes, they notice that they look different to 'normal' shapes, comparing a cuboid to dice they use in games. Staff extend this even further, introducing complex shape names, such as 'rectangular prism', which children then use independently in their play." - Ofsted 2019

Meet our team

Our highly qualified and friendly team all bring their own valuble specialisms to The Acorns, be that forest-school skills, arts and craft, music or sports. What unifies all our carefully-selected staff is their commitment to our vision and values of dedication, enthusiasm and individualised care.

All our staff at The Acorns Nursery and Forest School meet the guidelines set by Ofsted, and are constantly upgrading their qualifications. Janet Irwin, Ann Butcher and Christina Franks are also trained SENCOs (Special Educational Needs Co-ordinators) and have extensive experience in supporting children with a variety of needs.

Janet Irwin

Janet Irwin - Headteacher and Founder


Janet qualified as a teacher at Homerton College, Cambridge, studied psychology at London University and has been teaching, and offering support and advice to parents ever since. Janet opened The Acorns in 1985 and still enjoys a hands-on role. She was awarded her Early Years Professional Status and MA in education from Brighton University.


Janet has a TEFL Certificate, a qualification for teaching English as a foreign language. She also holds certificates for Paediatric First Aid and Food and Hygiene. She has recently gained a Level 3 qualification in Forest School Leadership.

Janet has a passion for teaching and also for languages. Speaking fluent French, Janet is working on a language project for children. She is the author of the 'At home with French' and 'At Home with Spanish' activity books for children published by Oxford University Press and also the 'Minilingo' range of audio products.

Ann Butcher - Deputy Head

Ann Butcher is Deputy Head of The Acorns Nursery and Forest School. She has an NVQ Level 4 in Early Years Care & Education together with her City and Guilds Teaching qualification.


She runs our Westmeston nursery and is responsible for all administration and forward planning. Ann is a natural with young children and loves being hands -on with them. She is an excellent horsewoman and has a love of nature and the outdoors.

Lindfield team

Christina Franks - Lindfield Manager

Christina Franks is in charge of our Lindfield nursery.  She has a Higher National Certificate in Childcare and Early Years Education alongside an NNEB qualification. She also has a diploma in leadership and management. 

Christina has a natural empathy with young children, and has worked at the Acorns for many years and continues to establish positive relationships with all our parents.

Louise Reay

Louise is a textile graduate with a level 3 in childcare. Louise enjoys doing arts and crafts with the children, from making junk-modelling robots to messy paint work!

She has enjoyed overseeing projects with the children to support the Local Arts Festival. 

Tracy Voller

Tracy joined our team in November 2019.

She is a very experienced practitioner with a level 3 qualification in childcare.

Tracy enjoys small world play with the children and has enjoyed spending time outdoors in both Lindfield and Westmeston. 

Hatty Matthews

Hatty is a recent music graduate from Leeds. She has a experience in both SEN music education and music therapy and enjoys using music as a tool of communication with the children at both Lindfield and Westmeston. Hatty also supports the marketing and digital communications of the Nursery.

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Jazmin Young

Jazmin is the newest edition to our Lindfield team. Originally a psychology graduate, Jazmin is an experienced Level 3 qualified childcare practitioner with a wealth of experience. 

Jazmin particularly enjoys problem solving activities with the children.

Westmeston Team

Fiona Tubb

Fiona manages our Westmeston setting. 

With a BSc in Sport and Exercise Science and PGCE qualified teacher status , Fiona has a wealth of teaching experience and a passion for sport and outdoor learning.

She enjoys engaging the children in a variety of outdoors activities, from bike riding to den building.

Hayley Spencer

Hayley Spencer joined our team in April 2019. She is currently completing her Level 3 in Early Years Care and Education.

Hayley has a great love of the outdoors and enjoys woodland walks with the children. 


Lucy Sargent

Lucy is one of the latest additions to our Acorns Team.

A Level 2 qualified early years practitioner, currently working towards her Level 3 in childcare. Lucy is passionate about outdoors learning and has a natural ability to bond with young children.