Interview - Professor Sacha Powell
Monday, January 21, 2019
Professor Powell moved to the Froebel Trust in September after working at Canterbury Christ Church University in the Research Centre for Children, Families and Communities
WHAT DOES YOUR ROLE INVOLVE AT THE FROEBEL TRUST?
I oversee The Froebel Trust’s research, practitioner development and public engagement programmes and I manage day-to-day work with our brilliant staff and volunteers. My role has great scope for development with varied responsibilities, so no two days are the same. The British Education Research Association’s Close to Practice Research Project has really influenced my thinking, inspiring me to find ways to develop closer co-operation between our research and practice partners. I’m working with trustees to design an integrated research-practice programme to sit at the heart of the trust’s growth strategy.
YOU CO-LED THE BABY ROOM PROJECT WHEN AT CANTERBURY CHRIST CHURCH UNIVERSITY. WILL BABIES CONTINUE TO BE A FOCUS OF YOURS?
Definitely! Froebel was fascinated by babies and The Froebel Trust defines early childhood as birth to eight years. I’ve enjoyed seeing recent projects develop, such as a DVD celebrating Elinor Goldschmied’s pioneering, Froebel-inspired work on caring for infants and their discoveries through heuristic play; and the Family Lives’ films, based on Froebel’s belief that shared singing and finger rhymes helps babies learn about connectedness and unity (or bonding and sense of self). I’m also delighted that three of our funded PhD students’ projects concern babies.
DO YOU HAVE ANY LONG-TERM GOALS IN THE NEW POST?
The Froebel Trust has a relatively low profile and quiet voice in the early years sector despite a long history of Froebelian influence in Britain. But it holds a unique position, providing grants and bursaries exclusively for early years research and education programmes. I’m convinced that the trust can become a key source of pedagogical knowledge and evidence and continue to advocate for high-quality early years training and practice based on Froebel’s philosophy. One obvious example is the key person approach, which was derived from Froebelian beliefs.
WHAT SPURRED YOU TO MAKE THE MOVE FROM CANTERBURY CHRIST CHURCH UNIVERSITY (CCCU)?
Before working at CCCU, I’d spent five years at a grant-making organisation in London so I feel as though I’ve come full circle. In the interim, I’ve had the pleasure of working with many fantastic colleagues in higher education and the early years sector, including Professor Tina Bruce, who is a wonderful mentor. Moving to The Froebel Trust feels absolutely right, with a role that offers new challenges and opportunities. My involvement since 2013 with the Froebel Research Committee means I’ve stepped into familiar territory and the transition has been really smooth.
WHO WILL CONTINUE YOUR WORK AT THE UNIVERSITY ONCE YOU OFFICIALLY LEAVE IN MAY?
I’m a tiny part of a big team. Dr Jo Josephidou was recently appointed to oversee the Early Childhood Scheme at CCCU and she is working with Dr Nicola Kemp to research babies’ outdoor learning and access to natural environments. Early childhood has a long history in our teaching and research at CCCU, pre-dating my arrival there and undoubtedly continuing to flourish long after my departure.