Gloucestershire’s largest children’s holiday club provider, Atlas Camps; is celebrating 10 years in business.
It was established by school friends, James Harber and Dan Tanner, whose love for sport transformed into an award-winning business.
Launched in 2012 with an Easter holiday club in Cheltenham and just four children in attendance, Atlas Camps’ quickly attracted crowds of children aged between 4-14. Now with 22 camps in locations all across Gloucestershire and Oxfordshire, Atlas attracts more than 750 children per day during the school holidays, making it the largest school holiday camp providers in the area.
Offering an engaging, safe and fun environment for primary and early secondary school children during the school holidays, Atlas Camps was created to offer an alternative to the usual sport-based camps on offer, instead specialising in multi-activity camps.
Dan Tanner, Co-Founder and Director of Atlas Camps, said: “James and I both loved sport at school, becoming friends over our shared passion for rugby, so it made sense that we both pursued early careers in PE teaching.
“Working in schools and coaching settings, we were all too aware that whilst so many children love sport, there are many who thrive in other areas; be it creatively, in the arts or with more hands-on, kinaesthetic type activities.
“While sport-specific preferences are well catered for when it comes to entertaining children during the holidays, there were very few childcare options on offer that gave children a choice, offering a plethora of activities for them to choose how they’d best like to spend their days. That’s exactly how Atlas was born – we set about redressing this balance to give all types of children all types of choice when it came to their school holiday fun, and that’s exactly what we’ve achieved.”
Old school friends, James and Dan attended Hartpury College where they both studied sport and physical exercise science, before individually pursuing careers in education; James as a PE Teacher at Beaufort Academy in Gloucester, Dan as a Community Rugby Coach for England Rugby. Originally investing just over £1,500 of their own savings to buy the equipment to launch their first Atlas Camp in Cheltenham in 2012, the investment soon paid off, with both taking the plunge and leaving full-time employment by 2015 to work on growing Atlas Camps full-time.
When the pandemic struck in March 2020, James and Dan pivoted to offer daily ‘virtual’ camps for parents and children, helping ease the strain of home-schooling by offering multiple activities to keep children entertained in their own homes; from virtual ‘garden nature spotting bingo’, to cook-along recipes and crafty how-tos.
“This innovation continued as the pandemic went on, with Atlas Camps opening doors to the children of keyworkers throughout the restricted 2020-21 period to offer much-needed childcare support when school doors were shut.
Despite the difficulties faced during the pandemic, Atlas Camps has grown, with 22 camps running every school holiday across Gloucester, Cheltenham, Stroud, the Cotswolds and Brize Norton, welcoming up to 750 children per day. Rated ‘outstanding’ by recent Ofsted inspections and employing over 100 childcare specialists across the county, the company is adding three further camp venues already planned in time for the Summer break.