Doors open wider over 20 years

Kapi-Mana News - - NEWS - By KRIS DANDO

In 1990, Bron­wyn Pul­lan made the bold de­ci­sion to de­velop her own pre-school – and she hasn’t re­gret­ted it once.

Bron­wyn’s Place, in Ti­tahi Bay, re­cently cel­e­brated 20 years in busi­ness, and Ms Pul­lan re­mem­bers clearly the first day she opened the doors – Jan­uary 6, 1991.

‘‘We had one house and it was the old po­lice sta­tion. There was my­self, two other staff mem­bers and we only had five kids. It was a bril­liant day for me. I’ll never for­get it.’’

These days Bron­wyn’s Place has three build­ings, one smaller one acting as an of­fice, where Ms Pul­lan of­ten works, sur­rounded by pa­per­work.

But a quick look up and she can see the laugh­ter and fun – along with oc­ca­sional tears, bumps and scrapes – that un­folds.

There are now 20 staff and 49 chil­dren at the two age lev­els.

Ms Pul­lan says in the past five years her time phys­i­cally spent with kids has di­min­ished while her busi­ness has grown.

‘‘I try and get into the class­room as much as I can. I miss the hands-on stuff, but it is hard with all this,’’ she says with a sigh, ges­tur­ing to the plans, ros­ters and other du­ties that de­mand her time.

An early child­hood teacher for ‘‘many years’’, Ms Pul­lan saw a gap in Ti­tahi Bay. When a prop­erty in Di­mock St came up for sale, she took her op­por­tu­nity.

‘‘I never had any doubts that this would work. My bank man­ager did but this was my dream and my pas­sion, and af­ter a cou­ple of years he had to take his hat off to me.’’

Work­ing for other peo­ple her whole life, she saw the op­por­tu­nity to run things her way, putting her own philoso­phies around man­ag­ing pre-school­ers into place.

This in­volved learn­ing through knowl­edge of the nat­u­ral en­vi­ron­ment, giv­ing chil­dren con­fi­dence and in­de­pen­dence, and let­ting them take risks – at a level they feel com­fort­able – in or­der to show con­se­quences.

Af­ter a trip to check out preschools in Den­mark and Ger­many in 2009, Bron­wyn’s Place now has reg­u­lar group vis­its to nearby re­serves and the beach ‘‘to build forts and ex­plore rock pools’’.

‘‘Our kids go out for the whole morn­ing; they take their lunches and just love it.

‘‘Par­ents and staff here were a lit­tle bit scep­ti­cal to start with, but now ev­ery­one can’t wait to head off. Chil­dren don’t walk enough these days and they grum­bled a bit to start, but now you can’t hold them back.

‘‘They’re in their el­e­ment do­ing stuff like mak­ing dams and bivouacs. We’re find­ing there’s no be­hav­iour prob­lems and the staff have much less stress.’’

More reg­u­la­tions have meant a lot of ex­tra work, but Ms Pul­lan says much of the red tape has been for the bet­ter­ment of the kids.

‘‘I used to work for Levy’s [a large cloth­ing busi­ness] in the 1970s and col­lect [ em­ploy­ees’] chil­dren for a child­care cen­tre in McKil­lop St.

‘‘I can’t even re­mem­ber if there were reg­u­la­tions back then. Some rules they have now are over the top but gen­er­ally it’s to make the en­vi­ron­ment safer for chil­dren, and that’s fine. Some changes I’ve seen have been for the bet­ter, some not, but you could say that about most in­dus­tries.’’

Ms Pul­lan says she owes a lot to a sup­port­ive, en­cour­ag­ing com­mu­nity. There are no more plans for ex­pan­sion, but, sim­i­larly, she has no plans to step aside any­time soon.

Bron­wyn’s Place will hold an open day on Satur­day, March 5, from 10am till 4pm, and ex-staff will get to­gether that evening to cel­e­brate the 20 years.

Kid­ding around: ‘‘I’ve had all the si­b­lings come through from one fam­ily a num­ber of times. These

kids be­come like your own chil­dren,’’ says Bron­wyn Pul­lan, who is cel­e­brat­ing her busi­ness reach­ing

20 years.

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