About Us


One year on: a Q&A with Sue Egersdorff and Liz Ludden from Belong Intergenerational Nursery

1.      What moment from your own childhood education has had the biggest impact on you as an adult?

Sue: I was very fortunate to attend a genuinely creative primary school. Everything we did was seen through a creative lens and we were given the freedom and space to explore and develop our own interests. This has set me up for life and I have always been intensely curious about everything! 

Liz: Those who know me well will not be surprised to discover that I was not a well-behaved child, no doubt I was the child who was discussed in the staffroom and who no teacher wanted in their class.  However, the turning point for me was being placed with a teacher who took time to understand me and value me, treating each day as a fresh start and providing opportunities for me to succeed.


2.      When did you first learn about intergenerational care and education?

Sue: I have always been interested in thinking about new models of care and community building. I had a strong involvement and belief in SureStart and the potential of children’s centres to support the most marginalised families. I was devastated when SureStart was not prioritised by Government and determined to search for alternative options. This was when I discovered that other countries, particularly Japan were bringing generations together in ways that made absolute sense to me. 

Liz: Growing up as an only child as part of a large family I was always surrounded by older family members who were an endless source of love and learning. So, I have always been aware of the role of the extended family in supporting a child and have always strived to promote family engagement on every level. Seeing other countries successfully formalising what is a natural human instinct and reflecting on projects made me realise that a model that was based on strong relationships and community cohesion was possible given careful consideration and planning.


3.      Do EYFS practitioners and leaders need additional skills to work in an intergenerational setting?

Sue: It should be no surprise that the skills associated with the caring of children are naturally transferable to older people. The critical competencies are compassion, respect and kindness and early years colleagues have these in bucket loads. However, we have had to learn about important operational aspects of adult social care e.g., infection control, person-centred care, safeguarding of vulnerable adults, adult nutrition, falls prevention, end of life care and the Care Quality Commission Quality Statements. We also continue to focus on learning and understanding more about living with dementia. This is ongoing as there is so much to learn and new research all the time which is fabulous!

Liz: I believe that our fabulous Early Years Educators already have the skills needed to work across generations, as we work in such a humanistic way. Although we have found that the skills do come naturally in our practice what we have also found is that there is a need to develop our knowledge even further.  It is essential that we continue to learn about cognitive development and decline and how quality interactions support both parties. There has been little professional development in this area in the UK. However a new qualification has been developed by our colleagues at Apples and Honey Nightingale which will support a better understanding of intergenerational practice, and career progression.


4.      Now into your second year, can you name 5 key moments that would sum up the past year at Belong?

 Sue and Liz respond jointly:

·         Opening the boxes of new resources and furniture for the Nursery!

·         Welcoming our first families, making so many new older friends and watching them interact with the children

·         Laughing to the point of crying almost every day

·         Building a fantastic team of committed early years educators who are prepared to go the extra mile for their older friends

·         Feeling humbled by the amazing interest and support we have received from across the world for our intergenerational adventure


5.      And now, the 5 main hurdles that you had to overcome? 

 Sue and Liz respond jointly:  

·         Persuading people to take risks and see the value of moving beyond tried and tested models

·         Finding the funding to get started as a new charity with no track record

·         Searching to find the right team of nursery professionals to share this new adventure

·         Post covid, overcoming the legitimate questioning about infection control, health and safety and safeguarding

·         Maintaining the energy levels needed to start anything new and innovative


6.      Thinking 10 years ahead, do you think that intergenerational models similar to the one at Belong will be more widespread? What is the role of policy makers in terms of a system of intergenerational care and education that will benefit more adults, children and families in the future?

Sue: From the growing data and evidence, we are collating, it is clear that this model is viable, effective and economically sustainable with careful planning. However, beyond this, it represents a radically human approach that really appeals and is far removed from the current, tightly contained and boundaried service delivery approaches. It is more than bringing generations together and offers a concept of a self-serving community. This has political appeal as a preventative, responsive way of meeting local needs in an effective family-oriented way. The challenge is to grow the evidence bank quickly as a baseline for policy makers.

Liz: I truly believe that we are demonstrating that this way of working has measurable benefits for not only our very youngest and oldest citizens, but for their families and for the wider community.  Our charity Ready Generations and the Nursery in Belong are just a small part of a growing intergenerational movement. We are working together with colleagues from across the UK, in Scotland and Northern Ireland to demonstrate that this model goes beyond care and education and supports community building. Although we are passionate and driven, we do need policy makers to collaborate with us and review the growing evidence for a new community model.


7.      What does inclusion and diversity mean to you?

Sue: We all want and need to belong and to feel connected. These are what make us uniquely human. For me, understanding everyone’s right to be treated with dignity, kindness and compassion is at the heart of understanding inclusion and diversity. 

Liz: Inclusion and diversity is one of the pillars of our practice. For me the two are interconnected and reviewed constantly to ensure that everyone feels safe, secure, and welcome. To know that they belong, and their individuality and heritages are understood and respected. Above all that their needs are met and they can contribute and feel valued.


8.      If you had a totally free weekend – what would you do?

Sue: I have a deep love for three things – my family, getting out in nature, and reading! A weekend combining these three would be perfect!

Liz: I would seek out and explore a place I had never been before in the company of good friends and family.


You can read the original article about Belong Intergenerational Nursery here.

And you can read other Q&As by Caroline over on our Tapestry Articles page here.  

Caroline Vollans
Having taught in primary schools for fifteen years, Caroline Vollans trained as a psychoanalyst. She now works as an author and freelance writer.

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