Early Learning in Catholic Schools of the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle acknowledges current research and best practice in the field, which respects the rights, capabilities, interests and needs of the Early Learner to achieve success and build the successful foundations to flourish in their learning and wellbeing. The Early Learner in a school context is the child transitioning into Kindergarten and the child in the school years of Kindergarten, Year One and Year Two.
The period from birth to 8 years is a time of remarkable growth with brain development at its peak. During this time, children are highly influenced by the environment and the people around them. It is a time of holistic development of a child’s social, emotional, cognitive and physical needs in order to build a solid and broad foundation for lifelong learning and wellbeing (UNESCO, 2016).
St Paul’s is committed to ensuring students transitioning to kindergarten receive the best possible start to their schooling. Our dedicated Kindergarten Teachers and Learning Support Team visit our early learning centres to gain as much information as possible about the students coming into our care. Our transition and orientation programs are family-friendly and designed to promote relationships between staff and students.
The Diocesan Early Learning Policy (2017) draws on a set of belief statements which make declarations about the Early Learner in Catholic schools. It is founded on the image of the child and underpins all we do at St Paul’s.
Catholic schools recognise the importance of the transition from home and prior to school settings to school and transitions across the early years of school.
The Successful Foundations Action Research Project was designed to strengthen the process of transition to school in the first five weeks of Kindergarten utilising a strengths-based approach which supports the child’s active engagement in play. After starting in 2019 Successful Foundations continues to grow and evolve with all schools in the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle being a part of the project from 2022.
Successful Foundations continues to develop innovative ways of communicating with families, highlighting the importance of play for learning and wellbeing as well as child development and neuroscience. The creativity, curiosity, wonderings, reflections and discoveries of children raise the image of the child and celebrate their many capabilities and strengths.
As Successful Foundations evolves, practices such as Play Reflection through Play Sharing and Play Stories have become more sophisticated. Play Reflections creates a climate of thinking, documenting, exploring and also support meta cognition.
Early Learning practices are instrumental in supporting school communities. This walks hand in hand with our Catholic faith, our commitment to re-imagining childhood and our understanding of transition to school as a time of establishing connections and relationships to eventually develop a sense of belonging for each child and the child’s family.
Importance of Play
Play is a very powerful context for learning in which students can organise and make sense of their world, as they engage actively with people, objects and representations. At St Paul’s, we use play as a learning experience for students to not only socially interact with each other but also to engage with the curriculum at many different levels. The teachers enrich this expereince with many opportunities to engage with their environments and notice the learning around them.
Play offers experiences of awe and wonder. It supports the spiritual child to make connections and develop a lifelong passion to explore, discover, question and appreciate their world.
Neural pathways and connections are formed in the first five years of a child’s life. Through play and active exploration, children’s brains are shaped and designed and many skills are developed including:
- problem solving
- emotional regulation
These are critical skills needed for life and school.
Most importantly, children are developing foundational literacy and numeracy skills through their everyday experiences of play. Play expands children’s thinking and enhances their desire to know and to learn.