Cathy Gunning

Cathy Gunning

Early Education Associate

Cathy is a qualified teacher and leader with a BEd (Hons) QTS, a Master of Arts in Early Education with Care, a NPQH, and two post graduate certificates in coaching in education and leadership. She has worked for over thirty years across the education, daycare, and care sectors. She has gained Fellowship status with the Chartered College of Teaching (FCCT) and CollectivED Centre for Coaching and Mentoring at Leeds Beckett University. Through her career, Cathy has been a primary and early years teacher, early years coordinator, early years leader, and local authority advisory teacher for early years. She has worked as a private daycare teacher/manager and volunteered as a preschool trustee and daycare director. Cathy was the Headteacher and Head of Centre of a maintained nursery school with an integrated children’s centre for ten years. While she was Head, the Centre experienced six Ofsted inspections and was commended for outstanding practice and leadership. Cathy currently works as a freelance consultant coach, mentor, and adviser. Her recent work includes a three year project supporting an EYFS unit in a London primary school where it was noted that “children in the early years get off to a strong start”.

Cathy’s recent work includes:

  • Early Education and Mercers: leading and collaborating in a four-year early years specialist initiative project for school readiness. This is called SPACE to flourish in the early years: Supporting Pedagogy, Arts and Creativity in Education. This is co-created with Debi Keyte-Hartland and Beatrice Merrick at Early Education. 
  • Virtual school professional partner: advising and providing information and guidance for care experienced families around education dilemmas and experiences for their children. 
  • Coaching and mentoring leaders and teams in the EYFS, providing bespoke thinking spaces and CPD to build confidence and deepen pedagogy.
  • Attuned Teaching: co-author of a book chapter, developing attuned project work, case study research for CCoT, and coaching group participation to develop teaching and attunement through an anti-bias approach, building relationships, creating safety, and deepening knowledge. This work is in collaboration with Prof Rachel Lofthouse. 
  • Writing and advising on curriculum documentation and best practice for EYFS for teams and schools.


Throughout her work, Cathy is passionate about the rights of children and developmentally appropriate playful learning and teaching for children, ensuring that vulnerable children are advocated for, and all have opportunities for reaching their dreams and aspirations. Her lived experiences as a therapeutic parent and full time parent entwine with her professional experiences to enrich her knowledge and practice continually. Further information about Cathy’s experience, career, and work is available on social media.

Cathy’s coaching, mentoring and working style

Cathy works in a fluid, flexible and responsive way that is specific and personal. She believes that coaching as a way of being enables others to gain confidence, grow and deepen both personally and professionally, encouraging self-efficacy, efficiency, and development of practice and pedagogy. Coaching empowers and transforms! Her research (2022) shows that adults who work with young children can grow, gain confidence and be transformed through coaching. Her work supports settings to meet the EYFS statutory guidance (2021) for supervision providing coaching and training of staff; and coaching for personal effectiveness (page 26 paras 3.22 and 3.23).

Cathy’s values and principles 

Cathy endeavours to operate with high integrity with specialism, space, thinking time, and depth in early years pedagogy, curriculum, and early education. 

As a lifelong learner, she is committed to being the best she can be, and is always learning and growing. She works to build trust in an atmosphere of mutual reflection, honesty, and openness. Cathy aims to practice Nancy Kline’s ‘Time to Think’ and particularly supports the 5:1 ratio of the giving of appreciation to criticism, particularly when using a Thinking Environment coaching style session.

Feedback and evaluation

Cathy considers this an important part of her work which enables colleagues and partners to review and evaluate effectiveness of a project collaboratively. She builds this into all the work that she does.

Areas of expertise​

  • Leadership

  • Coaching and mentoring

  • Supporting vulnerable children

  • Trauma-informed and attachment-aware pedagogy

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