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A call with Ellen Buschman, director of the Kattekop childcare centre

The Kattekop childcare centre has provided day care for the children of staff and students at Leiden University and the LUMC for over 40 years. Time for a chat with Ellen Buschman, Kattekop director, about how things are going there.

You became director of the Kattekop about a year ago. How has this past year been? 

It’s been a really unusual year, with the coronavirus measures taking up a lot of my time. Things kept changing so fast: just when we thought things were back to normal, we’d have to tighten up the measures again. I been working as a manager in childcare for over 15 years, but despite that experience, coronavirus made starting a new job much more complex. Luckily, I was given a very warm welcome and we’re hoping we can soon get back to doing more ‘normal’ things again. 

Ellen Buschman

What has been the biggest challenge in the past year?

The Kattekop is very small and homely, which is quite unique. The parents always bring their child into the group, which means you get to know the parents as well as the children. The coronavirus measures meant that the children could only be brought as far as the door, which made it all much more distant and I couldn’t have that direct contact with the parents. That was difficult, so I tried to find different ways of being visible. As soon as the measures were relaxed, I made sure I was outside more, talking to parents. With Kattekop being small, I have managed to get to know all the parents and children, so am now a familiar face.

What has the lockdown over the past month been like for you?

The lockdown was mainly in the Christmas break, when the University was also closed, so it is usually a quiet period. This Christmas we noticed there was greater demand, so we started giving parents the chance to switch days. They were happy that the centre was open and that they could switch days, so I in turn am happy that we were able to offer them the flexibility and access they needed. For me, it’s important to think about the needs of our clients and it’s something parents really appreciate.  

What is your best memory of the past year?

I love the contact with the children. One day, when I was in the toddlers’ group, one of the children asked me who I was. I told him, ‘I’m the new Tilly.’ Tilly was director for 30 years, so everyone knew her. I didn’t think to tell him my own name, so the next time I was in that little boy’s group he said: ‘Hi, there’s the new Tilly!’  That really made me laugh. 

What do you want to achieve with the Kattekop in the coming year?

I can see how everyone is fed up with Covid, so my aim is to bring the focus back to the pedagogical side of things. For the coming year we have developed a programme with an external pedagogical coach that will really enable us to  focus on the children’s development once again. A lot of our time over the past year has been taken up with children with coughs and runny noses, and it’s hard when the Covid rules say you have to send them home when they’re not really ill. It’s also asked a lot of the parents, and I have enormous respect for their flexibility and willingness to cooperate. I’m hoping that we’ll be able to focus on the content once again this coming year. 

A call about

There is a lot going on at Leiden University. The websites are full of news every day. In ‘A quick call about’ we ask one of our staff members to tell us more about a relevant and topical subject at the university. The answers tell us more about the facts, but above all give us the more personal, background information. What was fun or frustrating? What was surprising? What went well and what didn’t? Read all about it in ‘A call about'.

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