The calamities associated with COVID-19 have been no match for Diocese determination in the bustling township where eight new classrooms at Rosary Park Primary School, and a St Nicholas Early Education centre, opened last month.
The investment in Branxton comes on the back of Diocese research, which identified the town and its surrounds as an area of extensive growth. A population increase of 41 per cent was forecast for the period 2019-2026.
The purpose-built St Nicholas Early Education centre is located directly opposite Rosary Park Primary School. Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle chief executive Sean Scanlon says proximity of the two services was a planning decision made with parents and children in mind.
The convenience is not lost on many local families.
The Collier family have three children and decided to enrol daughter Scarlett, three, at St Nicholas Early Education when they found out it would be opening this year. Scarlett’s older sister Kendra, and brother Emmett, attend Rosary Park Primary School.
Mum Hannah Collier said Scarlett had previously attended another early education centre but felt St Nicholas would be a better fit for the family.
“One of the things that helped us make the decision to enrol Scarlett at St Nicholas was its convenient location across the road from Rosary Park Primary School,” Mrs Collier said.
“The other thing that appealed to us was St Nicholas’s Transition to School program. We’d heard really great things about the program from people whose children attend St Nicholas in Lochinvar and thought it would be a great way to introduce Scarlett to school, in a supportive and fun environment.”
Louisa Ramsay, mother to Finn, Leo and Sam, had also heard great things about the program.
“The fact that St Nicholas is across the road from school is great; but I’m really excited about the Transition to School program, which will help Finn get to know the teachers before he heads to school,” Mrs Ramsay said.
As part of the Transition to School program, pre-school-aged children attending St Nicholas in Branxton will take part in excursions to Rosary Park Primary School.
General manager of St Nicholas Early Education, Kerri Armstrong, says the service has a proud history of working with Catholic schools to deliver exciting learning opportunities.
“We’re committed to developing programs that support children’s educational pathways,” Ms Armstrong said. “Our Transition to School program assists our pre-schoolers to gain the foundational skills that will help make the leap to the school environment a positive experience.”
Finn and Scarlett’s introduction to St Nicholas could not have gone better, with both loving their time at the centre.
“Scarlett didn’t want to leave the centre when taking it all in as part of an initial tour and orientation,” Mrs Collier said, “She absolutely loved it and I could see why. It’s really beautiful. I was blown away. Everything is so clean and natural looking. They’ve used a lot of wood in the design, making it very calming.”
Mrs Ramsay said Finn was particularly taken by the outdoor facilities, but inside he loved all the areas to explore, and was quick to find objects he hadn’t played with at other day-care centres.
Finn and Scarlett’s older siblings won’t miss out on all the fun, with Rosary Park Primary School’s new classrooms something to behold.
Rosary Park principal Sallyanne Stanbridge says the school’s vision is to foster student agency and develop learners with adaptive minds and a sense of curiosity and wonder.
“Our new classrooms have been designed with these skill sets in mind and have the capacity to be used in varied ways to provide for contemporary learning experiences,” Ms Stanbridge said.
“In the classrooms for younger grades we are using flexible workspaces for creative play and this then matures into inquiry-based and more independent learning in the classrooms that house the older grades.”
Mrs Ramsay was granted a sneak-peak of the new learning spaces and was impressed.
“The rooms look amazing and include some great technology,” she said. “I could see how the flexible layout will help foster student creativity and imagination. The design will enable students to work across whole year groups when required, but also break off into small groups or for independent learning, discovering things that are of particular interest to them.
“This type of learning is really suited to Leo and Sam, and I’m excited to hear about their new experiences in the rooms.”