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Episode #8

Life in the Early Years

with Cath Larkin and Anne Statham

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“I’ve always loved the hilarity of being around young children and I know that’s not the academic thing to be saying but they’re hilarious. They teach you all the time, they teach you something every day and it’s wonderful to be around them.” - Cath Larkin


Cath Larkin has worked in the Early Years sector since the 90s. She has received huge praise for her ‘Inspirational’ leadership. She is an advocate for outdoor learning, forest-school based activities and ‘being in the moment’ with children rather than over-planning. She’s incredibly passionate about what she does, which is why even though she is now retired, she continues to train others in the UK and Internationally (including our very own team at Back To The Garden.) Today alongside Cath, we are welcoming back Anne Statham (who we interviewed in Episode 2). Anne is an Early Years specialist at Back To The Garden and a good friend of Cath’s. This is a jam-packed, informative and inspiring episode.

“I went into Early Years and never came out of it. Sometimes life has a way of tipping you into something or nudging you and off you go. You find where your supposed to be.” - Cath Larkin

We cover:


  • Cath’s personal journey and how she got to where she is today.

  • Her training and education

  • Where Anne met Cath and their work together

  • What’s inspired her in her work.

  • The pressures on parents to ‘see’ results of learning. 

  • Outdoor play and it’s benefits

  • Creativity and it’s benefits

  • Healthy risk taking

  • Allowing children to resolve their own conflicts and the benefits of this in later years. 

  • The importance of community

  • Why early years sector needs to be valued more in society

  • Mental Health and 2020 for parents, children and educators.


And so so so much more!


We’re thrilled to have these 2 wonderful guests on the show and we hope you enjoy hearing about their journey in early years education. 

“Children are hugely creative because they haven’t learned yet that they can’t do it. Of course they can sing and paint and draw pictures and make things and hopefully nobody’s told them yet ‘that’s not very good’, they’ve never been graded on it yet. We need to stop looking at lists on where children should be at which stage of the quarter this year and just let them get on with it and be creative and don’t put time limits on them, don’t put their work away, leave it for them. Things don’t have to be put away pristinely at the end of the day. Give them time.


Cath Larkin

In This Episode We Talk About:

1:47 Cath’s earliest childhood memory from her childhood.

3:43 Cath’s journey to get to where she is now, one of the leaders in the Early Years field. When her decision to work with children began and her first experiences. Why she is so passionate about this work. Anne shares about how she finds Cath’s approach. 


7:57 We discuss in more detail Cath’s training. The aspects of her education: her English and Art History, her PGCE. The many courses she did and how she managed to work them around her job. Then her decision to take to leap to do an NPQH National qualification for headship, which is a leadership qualification, this led her to reflect into own practice. “How can you lead people if your own head isn’t in the right place”. Then we discuss her role in a Sure start centre and the first time she met Anne, in an interview. Cath shares about Annes interview. “She did an absolutely stand-out interview in that very quiet calm manner that  Anne has that just makes you want to hear more.” - Cath


“You find your own voice within this Early Years Landscape and you find the things that you value and they’re the things that you highlight.” Anne


13:03 Anne shares about her first day working with Cath at the Sure Start Centre. (Sure Start Children’s Centre’s are area-based initiatives set up to support families and children with various services from learning skills, health and wellbeing and social/emotional development.)


“The start children get makes a big difference.”


18:35 Taking the opportunity to do a free MA.


20:05 Any inspirations/mentors over the years. Allan Ahlberg  inspired her ‘to be childlike, not childish but childlike with them.' Keith Lamb teacher (PGCE) taught how to teach maths and Keith said ‘always remember when people are telling you ‘I’ve had 25 years experience in this job’ he said some people have had 25 years experience but lots of people have had one years experience 25 times and it’s not the same thing.’ 


22:17 How the years at school repeat. Anne delves into this, how themes repeated. Big learning for her was to listen to the children and follow their uniqueness and go on a journey of discover with them rather than over-planning. 


24:07 Pressure from parents to ‘see’ the results of their child’s learning and how this leads to them making comparisons between their child and others. Why being ‘in the moment’ is so beneficial. Anne shares some experiences lockdown and how the positive and negative aspects of lockdown have been featured in Nursery world.


26:37 Outdoor Learning and it’s benefits. Cath shares her own experience outdoors as a child. Anne continues on the benefits of outdoor learning that she’s felt this year especially.


30:57 After Sure Start Cath moved to Offerton Nursery School which became and outdoor Forest School. Cath shares how that happened and how she was inspired by Boldon Outdoor Nursery School. The art of having a fire in the garden of a nursery and how this encourages children to share stories. We go further here in discussing children and the elements of nature.
‘It’s important that children have a respect for the environment but that comes from developing a relationship with it.’ Anne


36:00 The balance of a healthy rebellious nature. 


“We have to break free of our parents. That’s how we grow up.” - Cath


38:20 The importance of community. Through lockdown communities have grown together more. Anne shares about how her local community have come together more. 


“We need to give children the opportunity to weigh up their own risks.” - Anne 


“Children need to learn for themselves how to keep themselves safe. They need to learn to think for themselves and try things out. I think that most children, not all, but most children have got caution in-built, they won’t actually really put themselves in danger.” -Cath


Cath references the Danish Forest Schools and how they allow healthy risk taking in nurseries. We ask the question around placing an adults ‘fears’ on children and what the balance is. At Back To The Garden we go out to the woodland and seeing how children help each other and find their own solutions. 


44:06 Resolving of conflicts with children. 


47:05 Sponsor Section


48:23 Creativity - how people have turned to it, especially this year. We discuss creativity and the early years. 

“Everybody has a different language of expression.” Anne


52:16 Why Cath bans the phrase ‘next steps’ and why she loves the Development Matters Document. 


55:12 As a headteacher Cath was described as ‘inspirational’ and received an Outstanding grade from Offsted at Offerton Hall Nursery School. Here we discuss the skills need to lead, inspire and education others. The similarities and differences between teaching adults and children. How Cath provided a supportive environment for the people training through Quality For Early Years, knowing that most of them were coming on the back of a days work. Cath provides a funny example of ‘not getting it always right’. Here we also discuss how hard practitioners work and how we can support the wellbeing of the people who work with children. 


“The quality of early years provision really matters to me and the quality varies. Everybody’s doing their best but sometimes we could do better. We can always improve.” - Cath


“I loved the idea (as I’ve got older) of working with young people who are now doing the job that I did.” - Cath


“Through lockdown we recognise that this is a hugely important responsible job, and they are the lowest paid workers in the land. The future of the country is in their hands all day long.” - Cath


1:03:36  A funny example of a moment working with a child that has stayed with Cath today, that made her think ‘I love my job.’


1:07:02 Cath’s main hope for the future of Early Years. Where she sees things going in the sector. References the Nursery World conference and seeing Marjorie Ouvry. 


‘For 100 years people working in the early years have had to fight for recognition. And I think it’s time that this battle was laid to rest. And that people recognise the expertise, the qualifications and the creativity, all the wonderful things about early years and stop looking at it as though it’s preparation for year 6. It puts pressure on parents. If we can stop seeing everything as pressure for the next stage.’


01:11:10 Mental Health Awareness - what Cath’s noticed this year that parents and children need. Anne shares about Philippa Perry’s podcast where she shared about the child not being ‘a project’. Anne also shares her own personal experiences with her son. 


01:14:14 How lockdown has been for you personally for Anne and Cath. 


01:19:50 Anne shares what is was like having Cath come into Back To The Garden, working with our team. 

“If we want children to look after the environment and save this planet in the long run, they have to love it. They have to love being out there in nature.”


01:24:06 If money/time/logistics were no object what Cath would create for children.


01:25:38 What rights children should innately have.


01:26:43 What Cath and Anne have both learnt about themselves this year. 


01:28:59 What Cath and Anne are most grateful for.


01:32:15 Finish this sentence: Children are… 


“I realised that having just a set time to go outside wasn’t enough. And the idea that being outside was just to let off a bit of steam so that you could come back in and do your real learning wasn’t right. We began to spend more and more time outside. Then movement came along which encouraged everybody to same, come on let’s have an indoor/outdoor policy, they can choose where they want to be.” - Cath

Episode Resource Links:

Follow Cath on Twitter: 


Follow Anne on Instagram: 


Episode 2 with Anne Statham: 


Tim Minchin Speech: 




Sure Start Centres:


Michael Rosen:


Allan Ahlberg: 


Nursery World Article Anne mentioned: 


Tim Gill: 


Boldon Nursery School: 


Development Matters Document:


Quality For Early Years:


Marjorie Ouvry:


Philippa Perry:


Biophilia Article:

Cath’s son’s music:
Greg Larkin (@larkingreg88)




Thank you for listening!

We’d be so grateful if you could take 2 minutes to leave us a review on your preferred podcast app. Please share with anyone who you think would love to listen.
This episode is sponsored by Kit + Kin, award winning nappies - head to and enter the code BABY20 specially created for our listeners to use on the first subscription.  

Recorded via Zoom and edited at LBS, Stockport.
Producer: Adders Jeffry 
Original Music written by Sadie Pickering, performed by Sadie Pickering, Dan J Logan and Jay Ansill
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