Early Years Learning Framework
St Anthony’s School prioritises high expectations for learning, using the direction of the Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF) to facilitate learning, in the early childhood years. The EYLF is an early childhood curriculum framework, which guides the early childhood educators in developing quality, early childhood education programmes. The EYLF consists of Principles, Practices and five main Learning Outcomes based on identity, community, wellbeing, learning and communicating. The Learning Outcomes are used to reflect on children’s learning and focus on what a child can achieve rather than what they can’t. The EYLF enables early childhood teachers to extend and enrich children’s learning, provide opportunities for children to develop a foundation for learning and for children to become successful learners.
(Australian Government Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations for the Council of Australian Governments, 2009.)
The early childhood programs at St Anthony’s School recognise the importance of communication, language, early literacy, early numeracy and development of the social and emotional domain. The overarching concepts of the EYLF Belonging (relationships), Being (making choices) and Becoming (personal excellence) underpin the pedagogy of Early Childhood Education at St Anthony’s School. Students are encouraged to explore, wonder, develop interests, create their own identity, enquire and make meaning from the world. Play based learning, enquiry learning and explicit teaching approaches are all used to provide a child centred, balanced education to encourage children to grow spiritually, cognitively, emotionally, socially and physically.
St Anthony's School Early Childhood Philosophy
We believe that for a child to truly reach their full potential, it is imperative that they are exposed to strong, meaningful relationships between the teacher, parents and child. There should be mutual respect where everyone’s ideas are valued, listened to and responded to in appropriate ways. We believe in developing a strong bond between teacher and students by being caring, respectful and making each child feel special and supported in their individual learning journey. We believe that learning is a shared responsibility between the teacher and child. We believe in Vygotsky’s theory of social learning, that through collaboration and co-operation with the meaningful people around them, children will scaffold their knowledge and learn from their peers. We believe in implementing a variety of co-operative learning strategies in our classrooms to facilitate this. We believe that learning experiences within the classroom need to cater for all student’s abilities and different learning styles. Teachers must balance this with quality explicit instruction sessions, where children are encouraged to question and make sense of the world around them. Children all have very different ways in which they learn and therefore represent this learning in different ways, as supported by Howard Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences.
We believe that children need to be in a learning environment that promotes their holistic development: cognitively, spiritually, socially, emotionally, physically and morally. Every child is unique and will develop and meet milestones at different rates. Children need to be provided with opportunities that enable them to reach their full potential and foster a life-long love of learning. We hope that we enable children develop the core values of equality and respect for others to ensure that they are able to contribute and participate to their full capacity, both in the classroom environment and also within the broader community. Every child has a right to feel a sense of ‘being, belonging and becoming’ in the classroom, as supported by the Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF). Children need to be exposed to a stimulating environment that offers a range of activities. Children should be offered choices to explore a wide variety of activities, where we work together to create an environment that caters for different learning styles. The environment should be flexible and encompass discovery based learning where children are encouraged to take risks. We believe in Malaguzzi’s view that the classroom is referred to as the third teacher, along with the child’s parents and teachers. The classroom should be welcoming, aesthetically pleasing and reflect the core values of an early childhood program.
Parents as Partners
We believe that there must be open lines of communication between the teacher and parents to ensure the best outcomes for each child. Parents hold a wealth of knowledge about their own children, therefore enabling us to provide and develop appropriate programs that cater for each child’s individuality, allowing them to flourish in the early childhood setting. Information about the child can be gathered through interviews, informal chats and information sheets. Parents should always feel welcome in the classroom and school environment through assisting as parent helpers, class representatives and attending special school events. The connection between teachers and parents should be two way – teachers can get to know about the culture, strengths and weaknesses and specific goals of each child through the parents. Teachers in turn can support parents with information and ideas on how their children can be supported at home. Working together with families to form strong partnerships is essential in the early years to plan, develop and implement activities to support the child’s learning across all contexts. We believe that parents are a resource and through strong partnerships with teachers, the academic achievement of the children in our care can be enhanced.
The Role of Play in the Early Childhood Setting
We believe that play is a focus of any early childhood setting and an essential tool for learning with young children and therefore needs to be embraced by teachers. When a child is actively engaging in play, they are using all of their senses to make sense of the world around them. Play assists children to develop social skills through interaction with their peers. It allows them to explore, discover, organise and classify during their play experiences. Play allows children to develop their cognitive skills as they practise with different life roles. We believe there should be a balance between structured and free play. It is our role to organise and guide these play experiences, so that children have appropriate equipment, space and uninterrupted time to investigate, create and problem solve both inside the classroom and outdoors. Teachers must support the inclusion of all children in play opportunities and assist them in recognising when play is unfair. They must assist the children in developing ways to build a fair, caring learning environment.
Integrated Programs That Cater for Children’s Diversity
We believe that early childhood teachers must develop an integrated program that incorporates all learning areas, therefore catering for individual differences within the classroom. By using the Early Years Framework, Kindergarten Curriculum Guidelines and the Australian Curriculum, teachers can actively plan programs that cater for these individual differences. It is essential that literacy and numeracy are taught explicitly throughout the daily program, as well as being integrated across all learning domains. We believe that teachers must engage in instruction appropriate to the children in their setting by being aware of the different developmental stages, strengths and weaknesses and differing learning styles, whilst also allowing children to work at their own pace. Teachers must acknowledge the different backgrounds that children bring with them. They must value the inclusivity of all children, regardless of their ethnicity, family structure, economic circumstances and beliefs and values they hold.
Every child’s uniqueness should be celebrated, respecting similarities and differences. As teachers in Catholic Education, we believe that religious education is at the core of our curriculum. All children will be given opportunities to develop their own spirituality and through loving, caring relationships with their peers, families, teachers and others in the school community, assist them in living the core values that Jesus taught.
Behaviour Management and Guidance
We believe in the importance of promoting healthy growth and learning through setting clear rules and boundaries to establish an environment that promotes safe exploration. We believe that the teacher and students can work together to decide on behaviour expectations and goals within the classroom, where children will learn to use self- control and take responsibility for their behaviour. The teacher must model, teach and encourage appropriate behaviours and set clear expectations for the children. We believe that the qualities of choice, creativity and self-realization all work together to assist in developing each child’s individual potential. By using different guiding techniques such as body language, active listening and redirection to guide young children will assist in promoting a positive learning environment for all. The importance of building strong relationships is imperative in ensuring that children feel secure and comfortable so they are then able to recognise and respond to their feelings appropriately. We believe in the innate goodness in all children and the importance of nurturing and guiding them to become valued members of the school community and society.
Assessment of Young Children
We believe that assessment is an essential component of a teaching program and should be an ongoing cycle to ensure that programs individually target the diversity of the children in the early childhood setting. It is a process of planning, documenting and evaluating the learning that is taking place in the early childhood setting, which can then be used to inform future teaching, planning and reporting. Assessment should be conducted in a variety of ways such as observation, checklists, anecdotal notes, work samples and photos to develop a clear picture of each child. Teachers must then use this information to specifically target areas of need in individual children to support them in achieving the learning outcomes. This may be done by providing the support within the classroom or by assisting parents in accessing specialist help, such as speech therapy or occupational therapy. As teachers, we are also on a continual journey of learning and self–reflection. The nature of education is continually changing and it is imperative that we too stay educated and informed on the best teaching practices, learning strategies and resources available to better ourselves in providing the best education for the children in our care.
In summary, we believe that being early childhood educators is a special calling. We feel that it is our role to empower the children in our care to be life-long learners and accountable members of our society. We must be good role models for the children in our care, as we nurture and guide them throughout their learning journey. It is our role to make them feel that they belong and become the best people they can be. ‘Each day you work with young children you will communicate with them, play with them, care for their physical needs, teach them, and provide them with a sense of psychological comfort and security’ (Feeney, Moravcik, Nolte& Christensen, 2010)
National Quality Standard
The National Quality Standard (NQS) provides a benchmark for Early Childhood Education in Australia. St Anthony’s School assesses the seven quality areas of the NQS and rates each area. The seven quality areas covered by the National Quality Standard are:
- Educational program and practice
- Children’s health and safety
- Physical environment
- Staffing arrangements
- Relationships with children
- Collaborative partnerships with families and communities
- Leadership and service management
(Australian Children’s Education and Care Quality Authority.)
St Anthony’s School has developed a Quality Improvement Plan that has been implemented in order to strive for continual improvement so that the students enjoy the best possible conditions in the early years of education.