Doors open wider over 20 years
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