Launched in 2018, the project aims to support the implementation of the Early Learning Policy into schools by strengthening classroom practices. This is done by providing a positive play-based transition for early learners to school, helping to establish collaborative relationships between children, families, teachers and the community.
“Through play and carefully developed provocations, Successful Foundations gives children plentiful opportunity to show the infinite ways they express their interests, capabilities, needs, thoughts, feelings and imaginings,” said Kim Moroney, Education Officer (Early Learning) for the Catholic Schools Office.
“Successful Foundations is about co-construction – students and teachers are viewed as endowed with strength and trusted to quest together.”
The 11 schools who piloted the program during the first five weeks of Kindergarten in 2019 were:
- Holy Spirit Infants’ School, Abermain;
- St Columba’s Primary School, Adamstown;
- Rosary Park Catholic School, Branxton;
- St Patrick’s Primary School, Cessnock;
- St Aloysius Catholic Primary School, Chisholm;
- St James’ Primary School, Kotara South;
- St Patrick’s Primary School, Lochinvar;
- Holy Family Primary School, Merewether Beach;
- St Joseph’s Primary School, Merewether;
- Our Lady of Victories Primary School, Shortland; and
- St Mary’s Primary School, Warners Bay.
The findings of the pilot were collated through pre- and-post teacher surveys, a parent survey, feedback from principals, reflections from students and observations from Kindergarten teachers, Kim Moroney and Dr Harrison.
The overall findings from the pilot demonstrated that Successful Foundations was able to:
- support the positive transition of Kindergarten children and families to school in 2019 and assist them in becoming familiar with the context of the school;
- support system wide implementation of the Early Learning Policy;
- strengthen learner-centred approaches to assessment;
- provide children with the opportunity to actively demonstrate their funds of knowledge, capabilities and needs; and
- provide teachers with the opportunity to develop deep and meaningful relationships as they observe and interact with the competent, creative and capable child through learner-centred pedagogies.
“The findings highlighted how truly successful Successful Foundations has been across the Diocese,” said Maree Jones, Principal of St Patrick’s, Cessnock.
“To see teachers excited about their teaching and, in turn, students engaged in their play opportunities which is leading to positive outcomes, showed that Successful Foundations is very worthwhile.”
The feedback from parents highlighted that the pilot provided a more seamless and relaxing transition from preschool to primary school for students.
Many parents noted it provided a calm and fluid transition that took away both the parents and children’s anxieties about starting school.
The feedback also noted that engaging in play-based learning helped their children to feel a sense of belonging in an unfamiliar environment and easily developed friendships early on, even for children who had a tendency to be more shy and reluctant around others.
For teachers, they noted that the use of the play provocations as part of student learning helped them to look more closely at the benefits of play-based learning and developing children in a holistic way.
“Successful Foundations changed my practice, I learnt how to be a more effective observer and listener and how to be guided by the students and their capabilities and interests,” said Louise Walsh, a Kindergarten teacher from St Columba’s, Adamstown.
Many noted they spent more time interacting with students and listening to how they interact with one another and collaborate to problem-solve, helping them to understand the learning strengths, interests and needs of their students. This enabled them to form relationships with their students and therefore engage with parents in a more meaningful way.
“This has been by far the best transition to Kindergarten that I have provided for students in all my years of teaching,” said Louise.
“The students settled into school life very quickly and I could see social skills and language skills developing more and more each day. Friendships develop more easily and I could see the students growing in confidence and becoming more effective communicators and more involved as learners and thinkers.”
Gerry Vandermaat, Principal of Our Lady of Victories, Shortland also noted positive changes for their Kindergarten class as a result of the pilot project.
“It has brought a new dimension in understanding, learning and development for our Kindergarten students,” said Gerry.
“Our Kindergarten teacher now has observations and records which provides a deeper understanding of how students socialise, learn and solve problems.
“A number of parents of children in Kindergarten have also expressed their positive experiences with the trial.”
Feedback from students about what they learnt and experienced during the pilot also proved positive.
“I found some friends and they asked me to play and I said yes. That’s how we become best friends,” said Chris, a student from St Joseph’s, Merewether.
“I learnt that when people help each other, they are caring and you make great friendships,” said Harper, a student from Holy Family, Merewether Beach.