PROGRESSIVE AND INCLUSIVE: Staff and children at Gateshead Goodstart engage in early learning activities.Goodstart Early Learning is Australia’s largest early learning provider, with 643 centres Australia wide.
The not–for–profit social enterprise exists purely to improve the lives of Australia’s children and their families, with all surplus funds reinvested for the benefit of the children.
There are 10 Goodstart centres in the Newcastle region, located in Broadmeadow,Cameron Park, Cessnock, Gateshead, Glendale, New Lambton, Rutherford, Thornton,Anna Bay andNelson Bay.
“At any Goodstart Centre there is a focus on contemporary, inclusive and progressive play-based learning through an ‘attachment lens’,” Mandy Portlock, director of Nelson Bay Goodstart said.
“By attachment, I mean that we ensure all children are treated with dignity and have a strong bond with key adult educators, working together in small, tight-knit groups to reach the best possible learning outcomes.
“When childrenleave Goodstart, yes they can read their names and identify letters, they have had access to many early literacy opportunities, but they will also be armed with the skills to persevere, take on challenges, and realise they are part of a bigger picture world.”
Goodstart invests millions every year in the development, training and qualifications of their educators and the ongoing improvement of the centre environments and equipment.
“Goodstart provides professional development opportunities for staff and educators,” Mandy said.
“There’s fabulous access to technology likesmartboards in the rooms and robots that we use for programming, while the training is modern with a strong focus on infant psychology and learning.”
Each Goodstart centre aims to become the heart of an inclusive and supportive local community and welcomes every child regardless of their background or the challenges they may face, to help them reach their full potential.
Goodstart Nelson Bay, for example, works closely with other centres and schools in the Tomaree Transition to School Network.
“We believe relationships with families are just as important as those with the children,” Mandy said. “It leads to the best outcome for childrenand families. Goodstart provides its educators time to establish and maintain those relationships.”
Many of the Newcastle centres engage with their local Community Centres to provide external playgroups.
These playgroups give children who are not yet enrolled at Goodstart Early Learning exposure to early earning programs offered by qualified professionals.
“Families are welcome to come along to playgroup once a week. This is an excellent networking opportunity for families, builds community connectedness and supports our priorities of inclusion and partnership,” Mandy said.
“It’s part of our equity-of-access approach based on Goodstart’s guiding principle that all children are entitled to the best possible start in life regardless of their background.”
Goodstart staffwork closely with local Aboriginal groups to ensure culture is embedded and connection to country is established.
“The work is based around reconciliation, liaising with local land councils, attending meetings and smoking ceremonies and making ties in order to honour our first Australians,” Mandy said.
”Children do acknowledgment of country each morning, and we embedculture through everyday practices right down to planning gardens and going on excursions to get connection to country and understand what that country means to traditional custodians.”
Goodstart partners with local universities, colleges and schools to provide career pathways for indigenous students.
“Students can attend acentre one day a week in a structured and supported environment and get a feel for what it’s like to work at Goodstart,” Mandy said. “It’s all about increasing long-termengagement with the local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander workforce in orderto make reconciliation authentic.”
Goodstart staff and children regularly visit aged care facilities to provide inter-generational experiences
“It’s about working with children to build empathy and respect, and it’s a great outcome for both the children and the residents,” Mandy said.
“Nelson Bay has a large ‘transient’ community made up of ‘Sea Changers’ and Defence families, and often there’s not so much family support. By doing these visits we provide everyone with a chance for inter-generational experience.”
Goodstart Nelson Bay staff and children participate regularly in community events, like the Human Whale project each year.
“It’s a way to strengthen ties and be a presence in the community.”
To book a tour at your local centre, call 1800 222 543 or visitgoodstart.org419论坛.