Small, good quality preschools can offer big bonuses for children and parents, providing the friendly atmosphere and individual attention that comes from low child to staff ratios.
Oak Tree Red Beach, which recently changed ownership, is focused on providing this style of one-on-one care as well as an age-appropriate, emergent curriculum.
The centre, formerly known as Brennermore Early Learning Centre, was briefly closed during the handover period and is currently in the process of inviting in new families.
Anna Zhang, who also owns the successful Oak Tree Early Learning Centre in Warkworth, has taken charge but leaves the day to day running of the centre in the capable hands of qualified early childhood teacher Selina Capon.
Selina describes the centre, which has two staff and takes a maximum of 10 children aged two to five years, as an ideal first step for a child that has never left home before.
“The emphasis is definitely on fun and child-led learning,” Selina says. “Our small size means the staff know each child well and the children also get to know each other. That way we can really delve into each child’s interests and use those as a basis for our teaching.”
Selina says her 10 years of teaching experience has been built around this philosophy, which, she says turns out well-balanced children ready for school.
Respect is another important part of the Oak Tree philosophy.
“Self respect, respecting others and the environment leads children into being sociable and confident.”
The outdoors provides a vast array of learning opportunities and Oak Tree Red Beach takes full advantage of its garden planted with natives and its all-weather sandpit.
Selina says parents provide gumboots and are generally happy for their children to get outside and get muddy if necessary. As well as helping with developing physical skills, such as balance and coordination, the garden will be used for seed planting and other activities.
“Learning about nature in a hands-on way also gives children a sense of ownership of the centre. A strong sense of belonging is important.”
The open programme is flexible but time is also set aside each day for a writing activity.
“Our role is to prepare the children for learning, and provide a strong foundation. This is achieved by being realistic about each individual’s stage of learning and development and keeping it simple and fun. Children respond well to this approach.”