Rosanne Pugh - KU Ourimbah Preschool and Children's Centre

Published on Tuesday, 26 June 2018
Last updated on Wednesday, 08 December 2021

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This week we'd like you to meet Ms Rosanne Pugh from KU Ourimbah Preschool and Children's Centre.

How many staff and children are in the centre?

We currently have 20 staff (some part time) and 59 children per day aged from birth to six years.

What is your professional background and career experience?

As director and educational lead of KU Ourimbah Preschool and Children's Centre, I see my role as being responsible for inspiring a team of educators in their commitment to support a learning community dedicated to children's thinking and growth, global citizenship and wellbeing.

I have come back to KU Children's Services after 25 years of working in education in the UK. I was a primary school principal, in rural Shropshire in the UK. Having an early childhood background gave me confidence to innovate and provide an enriched curriculum that took full account of family learning and contributions, the outstanding physical environment we had access to, and attend to the personal circumstances of every child in the school from ages 3-11.

Our use of the "forest" to educate children from 3-11 years of age was fundamental in raising academic outcomes for a community that was stuck in the doldrums, in a school faced with closure. After three years our small rural school was rated in the top 10 schools across two counties. It remains open! My advocacy for outdoor learning and place-based education stems from first-hand experience where I have witnessed confidence and wellbeing emerge in children who previously doubted their ability to learn well. This comes from a strong pedagogical approach to curriculum and a commitment to playfulness in nature, for children of all ages.

I spent time out of the classroom too as an early years regional adviser, National Strategies, England. This was a fantastic opportunity to for me to experience how policy impacts on the early childhood sector as a whole. With an amazing team of researchers and practitioners I was able to contribute to the development and monitoring of national frameworks, interventions and innovations in early years policy and practice.

I advised on national training materials in pedagogy and worked with researchers, policy makers and local strategists to raise quality in provision across the West Midlands, UK. I also worked as a lead teacher, Shropshire Council and associate tutor Edge Hill University, Adviser Partnership Board where I managed a demonstration centre to model teaching and collaborated in designing materials, training and assessment that reflected excellence in practice.

I have had a privileged career and I delight in teaching and researching, playing and creating with other partners and a wonderful team of educators.

What makes your centre unique?

By taking seriously the plight of nature and the needs of very young children, KU Ourimbah has developed a cutting edge environmental educational initiative. This approach has redefined what the pre-school and early education years can be - an integrated and comprehensive approach to ecological education.

Our wider community is situated within the natural landscape of the Ourimbah Campus of The University of Newcastle. The rich cultural experiences offered to the children include partnership between faculties, such as The Arts, Education, Health and The Wollotuka Institute. Our Forest Kindergarten/ Walkabouts operate daily and are an opportunity for children to connect with the natural world, to solve problems in a landscape that is not uniform and that offers challenge, inspiration and beauty, unpredictability and interest.

KU Ourimbah Preschool and Children's Centre strives to give visibility to the creative and inventive endeavours of children that honours the complexity of family life and supports the engendering of these experiences into the culture of the service. The team gives voice to children's narrations, their theory making and reflexivity, their communications and metaphors for meaning and in this way, helps to build self-belief and an understanding of the potential of ideas.

What are some of the advantages of working in the child care sector?

It is a very creative job. It builds culture. It builds futures. The teaching team at KU Ourimbah Preschool and Children's Centre celebrates the "potential of ideas" which are incubated through peer and teacher interactions, extended university partnerships and engagement with a wider virtual learning community.

This is highly relational, where we support children's collective capacity to express many different perspectives which lays the foundation for culture building and is defined by an open, flexible, evocative approach that encourages young children to create imaginings, where a community of learners are consistently encouraged to value the unexpected.

What are some of the biggest challenges facing the child care sector?

Professional status and recognition is the biggest challenge facing our sector. Neuroscience has scientifically unlocked for us the importance of infancy and early childhood in building intellectual flexibility, where the window for this sits within the first five years. Together with parents, educators are literally building the brains of the future - not just academically but setting foundations for emotional regulation and citizenship.

Politically, this remains under appreciated. Early education is an investment that pays back generously to society. It is an entitlement for all children – to access quality learning and care. Australia’s levels of investment are an international embarrassment.

How has your centre changed to deal with these challenges?

We see ourselves as professionals. As a team and a sector, we understand the complexity and dynamic nature of our work and support one another. This is a political issue. Where we can represent the child as a learner with huge potential, when we can explain the crucial nature of early experience on later life outcomes, where we can draw on research, ever-increasing and global that points to the importance of early provision, we will do this. We will live our convictions and speak of these to others. The illumination of the potential of children as seen in their learning is in itself, powerful advocacy.

How does the industry need to change to adapt to these challenges?

Our sector needs friends to influence a change in the discussions around the early years of life. Using social media to narrate the story of how humans develop and the importance of professional work in contributing to health and wellbeing is indispensable. We need to be articulate, intelligent advocates.

With this in mind, KU is proud to be a part of the Everyone Benefits campaign, a positive national campaign which aims to increase awareness and understanding of the benefits of investing in early learning and increasing access to quality programs.

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