Learning to tread more lightly

To be hands on and delight in nature gives children the opportunity to wonder about it, to care for it and to take responsibility to look after it.

Rosanne Pugh, Director at KU Ourimbah Preschool and Children’s Centre, will use her NSW Premier’s Scholarship to study how reconciliation and sustainability go hand in hand.

The 2017 Premier’s Early Childhood Education Scholarship provides $10,000, which will allow Rosanne to undertake a month-long study tour in Australia and New Zealand, visiting schools, universities and centres which practice excellence in sustainability and reconciliation. Rosanne also won the Australian Council for Educational Leaders (ACEL) Leadership Award for 2017.

Rosanne said she hoped the scholarship will allow her to gain new perspectives on both reconciliation and sustainability. She operates a ‘Bush Preschool’ at KU Ourimbah on the Central Coast, where children are immersed in nature.

“The natural world is a place of awe, fragility and resilience which the children experience and seek to understand first hand,” Rosanne said.

“To be hands on and delight in nature gives children the opportunity to wonder about it, to care for it and to take responsibility to look after it.”

Rosanne has been at KU Ourimbah for three years. She began her career at a KU centre in the 1980s in western Sydney, at a time of “huge growth” in early childhood education, affording opportunities for creative work.

She loves early childhood education because young children have the capacity to “view the world differently”, and they can “research and learn and provide something new for teachers every day”.

But having met and married a Welsh man, Rosanne has spent 25 years of her career working in the UK and has been heavily influenced by that.

“When I arrived, it was a time of professionalism of early childhood in the UK with lots of opportunities for best practice to be celebrated and resourced,” Rosanne said.

“There are a lot of strengths in the Early Years Learning Framework in Australia, but in the UK early childhood is included as a fundamental part of the structure of education, along a lifelong continuum – not an extra.

“It’s called the Foundation Stage and it sits alongside all the other stages of education.

“The head or principal of a nursery school is paid the same as a primary school teacher and has the same status.

“That’s a big difference to Australia.”

Rosanne is a supporter of the IEUA NSW/ACT Branch Teachers are Teachers campaign and believes the UK approach to early childhood education – which acknowledges the impact of early childhood education on later academic achievement in school – needs to be adopted by Australian governments.

In the UK, Rosanne gained experience as a primary principal, with her early childhood qualifications being wholly accepted.

The approach used by early childhood educators to understand and assess young children was much sought after by primary principals in the UK.

She also studied and gained a Forest Schools award. The UK Forest Schools movement is a popular push to get children out into nature.

Rosanne has used this Forest School learning to set up her Bush Preschool at Ourimbah, and is looking forward to extending her knowledge with the scholarship.

“I really wanted to amplify and draw on the threads of sustainability and reconciliation. I want to see things in the environmental paradigm, looking at the need to tread lightly, the indigenous ideas of the sanctity of the land and sovereignty over the land.

“Hopefully I can find a greater degree of cultural competence.”