Church Offers Early Education in Newcastle

We’ve all heard a story of a friend, a family member or a colleague who is desperate to find a place in an early education centre so they can return to work.

Most parents seem to put their child’s name down from birth − or even sooner − at numerous centres in the hope that one might just come through. But so often Grandma becomes the carer for the newborn or Mum simply can’t maintain her career.

My wife and I were blessed – eventually – to call a childcare centre at the right time and we were happy to accept what they could offer our two children. Their growth, and the friendships that have developed over those years, have been important to their learning and character as they have started school.

What is the church doing to support families looking for early education?

Catholic schools in this region play an important role in educating and developing almost 19,000 children. The diocese, under the auspices of Bishop Bill Wright, also offers outreach services for couples preparing for marriage and to become parents, people with disabilities, people in need of affordable housing, those in need of counselling and so many more.

The diocese is now embarking on a major initiative and developing early education centres. The centres will be launched under the name of St Nicholas Early Education and will form part of a new diocesan early education agency. St Nicholas is the patron saint of children and probably the saint that all children would know about, thanks to his association with the big guy in the red suit.

The first St Nicholas Early Education centre is expected to open on a site adjoining Cathedral House in Hunter Street, Newcastle next March. This centre will offer 52 places for children from eight weeks through to pre-school years, meeting a need for early education places in the Newcastle CBD.

For the past ten years, Singleton Parish has operated a very successful early education centre and this will transfer soon to diocesan management with the name expected to be changed to St Nicholas Early Education in mid 2016. There will be the same high quality care from the same well qualified staff operating under the same values.

A third centre is planned adjoining the CatholicCare offices in Cardiff. This model will extend services to provide additional support to families. Future centres are planned and where possible will be located close to existing Catholic primary schools to allow easy transition to kindergarten.

The rollout of the new centres is being coordinated by Kerri Armstrong, Operations Manager for Early Education. “Our aim is to provide high quality care and education to all children,” said Ms Armstrong. “The church is responding to a huge need in the local community and this is an exciting period of development.”

Demand for places is expected to be strong so families seeking places in the new centres or staff looking for employment opportunities should visit the St Nicholas Early Education website, www.stnicholasmn.org.au.

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Sean Scanlon

Sean Scanlon is the Vice Chancellor Administration at the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle.

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