Over the past couple of years there have been some significant changes to the field of early childhood education. These changes, including the Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF) and the National Quality Framework (NQF), have lead to a significant decrease in the perceived gap between kindergartens and childcare centres. Previously, childcare has been seen as a service exclusively devoted to caring for children, and that when children are old enough they head off to kindy to begin their education. The reality is, high quality childcare has long been an environment that caters to the care AND education of children, with the awareness that for very young children there is often no difference. With the Labor government’s changes, the public perception of childcare began to change as people became more aware of the way children learn and the learning that takes place in childcare centres.
This changing perception, however, is not pervasive; some people still believe that children need to go to kindy to learn. This is despite both facilities following the same curriculum framework and being assessed under the same standards. So when families choose to stay at Flinders and not access a kindy, they are sometimes receiving flack from those who don’t know. These families sometimes choose to share other’s responses with us.
This bothered us, so we thought we’d plead our (and their) case.
There are many reason to choose Flinders over a kindy. Firstly, there are the national laws which outline the use of the same curriculum framework and assessment under the same standards. Secondly, the ratios and group sizes at Flinders in Preschool and Sturt House are both better than would be offered at a kindergarten. Thirdly, children can access the programs at Flinders all day, meaning not only that the times are more convenient for working families, but also that the children have an opportunity to access a range of learning experiences for far longer.
The educators at Flinders currently exceed minimum qualification standards; all educators either have or are working towards a Certificate III; most have a Diploma. We have eight four year teacher trained educators and one educator who holds a Masters degree. Our educators are highly experienced and passionate about children’s learning.
At Flinders, children cook, maintain vegetable gardens, access outdoor play and winter play, work with a wide range of art mediums, share stories, build, cooperate, collaborate, think, create, wonder, imagine, inspire and learn. All this happens in a supportive, positive, beautiful environment.
It isn’t our place to make decisions on behalf of others. And if we accept this, we must also accept that it is not our place to judge or qualify the decisions of others. Those families who choose to stay at Flinders and not access a kindergarten are not putting their children at a disadvantage; they are making the right choice for their child. This choice is individual and will be different for every family. It is our role as educators and members of a community to respect the choices others make and learn about the reasons why they may have made these choices.
So for those who don’t understand why a family would decide to stay at Flinders rather than go to a kindy; ask! You might learn something wonderful.