St Stephens preschool is a place of belonging for me. It is where i attended preschool with my brothers and childhood friends (many years ago). It is a place where i have had the privilege, both as a staff member and a parent, to observe my own children establish their individual sense of self identity through play. St Stephens preschool is an educational environment that also nurtures children socially and emotionally through play. Time and space for play that is encouraged and facilitated by teaching professionals is the most valuable experience prior to school that can be offered to our children. It provides an opportunity for children to establish a sense of self and of other. Children can begin to think creatively and establish divergent thinking patterns. They can begin to identify and solve their own problems, voice their own opinions and exchange their own ideas.
As I complete my Bachelor of Education (Primary & Early Childhood) at Macquarie University, I am in awe of the knowledge and skills of the team of Early Childhood professionals at St Stephens. Early literacy and numeracy is immersed in every day life at preschool. It is meaningful and relevant to our children’s world. At our morning meetings when we greet each other for the day, we see which children have arrived. “We have 18 children here today, if Steve arrives how many will we have then?” To hear groups of 3 and 4 year old children reply “19” is a powerful thing. The staff create and facilitate opportunities throughout the day that offer children the chance to draw on their existing knowledge, share it with other children and connect it with new knowledge. This process is not done with stencils at tables and chairs, it is facilitated indoors and outdoors, in both small and large groups, through conversations and experiments where children initiate the ideas, offer the questions, hypothesize and consult with each other on possible solutions. To facilitate this process, record it in real time and document it for families to demonstrate where and how the learning happens at preschool takes energy, strategies, skills, reflection, time and passion.
Just as an aside, in December 2014 the Federal government shifted Early Childhood Services out of the Education Portfolio and into the Social Services Portfolio. Based on my personal experiences being a parent and having worked at St Stephens Preschool over the last 3 years, this change is economically motivated and does not reflect the high standard of quality education that is provided at St Stephens.
It is up to us, the parents, friends, families and local communities to share our experiences and acknowledge the value we place in the education of young children and the people who provide it.