One of the delights in my role as Principal is to visit our Early Learning Centre and see the children at work and play. Universally it is accepted that children love to play and the known benefits are life long. Children’s natural propensity to play may at first glance be seen as play just for the sake of enjoyment. However, educators worldwide have a broader view and consciously tap into children’s love of play to develop all of which is nascent and emergent within each child; abilities and personal characteristics waiting to flourish. Early education teachers committed to high quality outcomes embed play into their curricula to engage children and promote deep learning opportunities, being acutely aware of how capable and competent young children are as learners.
When I walk through our ELC I see children pursuing their interests using open-ended resources to imagine, investigate and inquire within indoor and outdoor play spaces which are inviting and aesthetically pleasing. Their play and work experiences have been carefully designed by the staff to achieve specific outcomes in the children’s learning. The materials offered for ‘play’ change regularly to provoke thinking, challenge problem solving, evoke creativity and provide extended time for shared conversations to develop friendships.
But equally noticeable is that the children are not working or playing alone.
Alongside individuals or small groups are the teachers, engaging children in insightful conversation, asking open-ended questions to encourage thinking in more abstract or sophisticated ways. They combine explicit teaching skills with questioning to scaffold individual or group understandings, with time and opportunity given for the children to reflect upon and evaluate their efforts. These rich interactions between children and staff take place within the environment which has been created to ensure the children feel supported, safe and secure.
All of our Senior and Junior school programs undergo regular review to ensure they reflect current pedagogies and the rigour to support and produce high quality education. This is true for our ELC as well. However in addition, as our ELC is an approved early education service, it undergoes assessment against seven standards every five years, as regulated by state and territory authorities.
For your interest the seven standards are:
> Educational program and practice
> Children’s health and safety
> Physical environment
> Staffing arrangements
> Relationships with children
> Collaborative partnerships with families and communities
> Governance and leadership
Each standard is rated individually and scaled according to whether services are meeting national standards, or are in fact exceeding expectations.
Recently our Early Learning Centre underwent their five year external assessment which involved the evaluation of extensive documentation of the Centre’s operations and policies. The review then culminated in a full day on-site appraisal by representatives of the Australian Children’s Education and Care Quality Authority (ACECQA).
On receipt of our report from ACECQA we pleasingly and happily learned that our ELC received ‘Exceeding National Quality Standards’ in all seven areas.
In reading the report, the strengths of our Centre became obvious with superlatives used to describe the leadership of the Centre, the integration of the School’s mission, vision and values, the holistic education, health, safety and wellbeing programs, the commitment to and respect for each child’s identity and sense of belonging, together with provision for individual learning needs. The Centre was praised for their collaboration and engagement with families and the wider community, in powerful recognition that when home and school work together the best educational and personal development outcomes can be achieved. The staff received noteworthy recognition for their commitment to their own continuous learning, their vigorous interactions to discuss current educational philosophy and programs and their participation in external university research projects.
We are very proud that our Early Learning Centre ranks amongst the highest achieving educational and care services in Australia. Deservedly, we congratulate the ELC teachers, Neroli Bowyer-Smyth, Angela Follacchio, Effie Kitsiris, Jacqui Laird, Joanna Lee, Melinda Murphy and Ramila Sadikeen and CGGS specialist staff for their professionalism and dedication under the leadership of Head of Junior School, Paul Donohue and Early Learning Coordinator, Esther Wong.
So when all who see our ELC children ‘seemingly’ at play we should confidently know that the children are being catered for with staff who are excellent communicators, are creative and energetic, are authentically respectful of the children and their families and love learning just as much as the children in their care.
With best wishes,