ECE Diamonds

Jude Simpson – we can do better than this


b. 1953
Life member 1999

Early childhood education has been Jude’s Simpson’s life work in Northland, as a teacher, a leader, a mentor, a champion for infant care, and advocate for bicultural education. 

A childhood in the 1950s left Jude with a strong love of learning through play in the outdoors which never left her. Jude raised her own children in Whangārei in the 1970s, joining Playcentre where Noreen Moorhouse encouraged her to study for the supervisor qualification.  When a supervisor position came up, Noreen told Jude she was ready for it. Noreen was to say this to Jude a number of times, over the years!

When Jude’s youngest son started school, she thought her early childhood days were over but a new childcare centre was looking for a supervisor. Jude, with her Playcentre experience, was asked to step in. The supervisor role meant Jude needed a further qualification. She enrolled in training with the NZ Childcare Association (now Te Rito Maioha), again encouraged and tutored by Noreen Moorhouse.

It was Noreen who encouraged Jude to take her next step and apply for a position as Kaiāwhina at Raumanga Te Kōhanga Reo in Whangārei. Jude had huge reservations about her basic understanding of te reo, but the kōhanga wanted someone with expertise in early childhood. 

“My grandfather was a fluent Māori speaker and always spoke Māori to us. I knew lots of words, but didn’t realise I knew as much as I did. This was a whole different way of looking at children’s learning.”

 When the Kōhanga opened their infant and toddler centre, Jude met kuia whaea Maki Waa (Naiguard). It was the beginning of a strong interest in infant and toddler care. 

While Jude was working at the kōhanga reo, she was elected to the Council of the NZ Childcare Association. Stepping up into national ECE politics led to roles with Plunket, Ministry of Education in the Far North, and the Auckland College of Education.  

Supporting other ECE centres across Northland, Jude became concerned with the quality of infant and toddler care she was seeing, in some cases little more than babysitting in a back room.

“I just thought this is bad for babies. We can do better than this, why aren’t we? People would tack on say four infants and toddlers to their numbers—but they weren’t actually providing for them… Before the push for training to work with infants and toddlers there was the view, “Anyone can look after babies — go and work there.” Once the training came along that started to lift things.”

Increasingly interested in ECE philosophy and practice based on respecting young children, Jude established her own infant care centre in 1997 at Kamo, beside a private kindergarten, which she eventually bought. 

Jude was made a life member of the Association in 1999. She sold the Kamo centre in 2005 and retired, but in 2014 Jude saw a need in the Paihia/Opua community and opened Te Waenganui Centre. Jude’s experiences growing up in the North provided the basis for this centre’s curriculum encouraging outdoor exploration and learning.

Throughout Jude’s career, the influence of women like Noreen and whaea Maki played vital roles, as well as bicultural champions such as Kahu Katene and Nanny Pare

This article is an abridged version from Te Rito Maioha’s book on its life members and their work. You can read Jude's full story and those of other ECE champions:

Life Stories on the Frontline: Growing a childcare movement in Aotearoa
Ngā kohinga kōrero a te aumangea: Kia mana te ara kōhungahunga ki Aotearoa