It’s Friday morning at St Luke’s CELC, I walk outside the admin building to be greeted by Josh who has been looking through the window.
“Mrs Tapley, Mrs Tapley!” He said quickly with excitement, pointing inside the door from where I came through.
“Mrs Tapley, the STOP sign!”
I responded affirmatively that the sign he was pointing to was the stop sign that is sometimes used in the children’s play outside particularly when the bikes are in use.
“I need it!” He said determinedly.
“Would you like the Stop sign for your play?” I asked Josh
Josh nodded his head and said, “I need it to stop people” (he gestured the stop signal with his hand. “Before they can go.” (he gestured his other hand to motion the go signal.)
These interactions bring joy to my day. It was a wonderful start to the day with Josh expressing his thoughts to me so confidently. At the same time, I can see his language skills developing as well as his literacy awareness. This was an important reminder to me how early learning matters for children’s wellbeing and their development. (And so my original nearly complete blog on groupings and reflections was abandoned – but was described perfectly by my colleague here Routines, groupings and transitions which I urge you to read as it is a well written blog reflection about other aspects of our CELC experience.)
Later in the morning, I saw Josh with a small group of children. Josh was in a line with his peers which they had independently formed, whilst their friend Thomas was holding the Stop sign. They were walking along the bike track, as they did this together in line formation, Thomas would at seemingly random moments cease walking and hold up the Stop sign. This would cause Josh and his peers to stop walking. Then Thomas would move the stop sign and gesture for the group to continue walking along the path.
This child initiated experience continued throughout the morning, with the children negotiating and collaborating their roles in the play. Turn taking, role play through imaginative play and problem solving. These observations and interactions are part of my favourite times in my role at St Luke’s Catholic Early Learning Centre as I witness first hand how early learning matters each day and every day.
Ninety percent of children’s brain development occurs in their first five years of life. Early learning for children sets their trajectory for the future. In a recent article by Sam Crosby, Why childcare must be made free in the Financial Review, he discusses the need for early childhood to be freely accessible to all children.
“ A range of longitudinal studies have shown how high quality, early childhood education develops social competency and emotional well being.” Crosby
A number of other recent articles covering similar themes published in relation to Child Care subsidy discussions and the need for this to be reviewed include The case for free early learning ; Quality childcare can help rebuild economy; Childcare is important for parents but vital for kids – both are under threat
Childcare has traditionally be viewed as an economic policy by governments, supporting parent’s participation in the workforce. Whilst this is a benefit, it needs to be recognised the value that high quality early learning environments provide for children’s well being and development, setting their growth and path for future years.
“All children have preparedness, potential, curiosity and interest in constructing their learning, in engaging in social interaction and in negotiating with everything the environment brings to them.”
(Gandini, 1993, Fundamentals of the Reggio Emilia Approach to Early Childhood Education, Young Children, 49, p 5.)
In their play, the children are learning how to communicate with their peers. Within this communication, they are also developing negotiation and collaborative play skills to guide the direction of their play.
This was indeed on display between Josh, Thomas and their peers. In their play, children are learning. These moments in play are reminder of how learning occurs in its own time and early learning is not about getting children ready for school, it is about curious children becoming ‘creative contributors and innovative problem solvers.’ Now that has a nice ring to it… ah yes – that is key to our mission and values at St Luke’s Catholic College and guides our practise.
As a ‘next generation Catholic learning community’ St Luke’s Catholic College, Marsden Park has established the ‘new normal’ for preschool to post-school learning. This innovative environment nurtures and grows faith-filled, curious children as critical thinkers and problem solvers.
There does seem to be a growing recognition of the value for quality early learning environments for children. It is not babysitting for parents to attend work, it is not preparing children for school. It is essential for children’s social wellbeing, growth and development.
High quality early learning environments requires the skills and knowledge of professionals, including university trained teachers who have made the choice to work the extra weeks in the year with no school holidays as they have a passion for the important work and role they play in the lives of young children and their families. This also needs to be recognised in the wider community.
I am in the fortunate position where it is recognised that Early Learning Matters as part of St Luke’s learning community . This supports our sense of belonging to the learning community which supports children’s growth over time from preschool to post school.
*Early Learning Matters week 2020 was 3-7 August to raise awareness and understanding of the importance of early learning.