This month on the NEL Blog, guest bloggers Kathryn Wetenhall and Rebecca Andrews from John Brotchie Nursery School, share their service’s key strengths in their quality practice approach that contribute to successful outcomes for children.
John Brotchie Nursery School was awarded the Excellent rating by ACECQA in May 2020.
In this first blog post, you’ll learn a little bit about the preschool and their positive attitude towards continuous quality improvement.
Introduction to John Brotchie Nursery School
John Brotchie Nursery School is a NSW Department of Education preschool situated in Botany, NSW. Our preschool has been a part of the local community for over 70 years and is highly regarded by local families and the community. Our team of educators pride themselves on providing an innovative, high quality and dynamic educational program for preschool age children. Our program supports children to become capable, confident and creative learners.
We believe that children have a natural disposition for learning that allows them to thrive in the 21st century. Our practices are guided by a variety of theories, approaches to learning and current research. The main approaches that underpin our educational program and daily curriculum are play-based learning, outdoor learning and responsiveness to children.
We were assessed and rated as Exceeding National Quality Standard in all seven quality areas. In May 2020, we were awarded the Excellent rating by ACECQA. The process of applying for the Excellent rating was a wonderful opportunity for us to reflect on our strengths and achievements.
We would like to share three approaches to learning that highlight our strengths in providing quality practice at our service. These strengths are:
- our positive attitude towards continuous improvement
- our partnerships with families and colleagues
- our strong emphasis on outdoor learning.
We believe that these strengths in our practice contribute to successful outcomes for the children at John Brotchie Nursery School.
Positive attitude towards continuous improvement
One of our greatest strengths at John Brotchie Nursery School is our positive attitude towards trying new ideas. We embrace change and have robust conversations that lead to improved practice and outcomes for children. All of our educators have a passionate approach to their work with young children. They are involved in professional development and are always striving for personal and whole preschool improvement. We have a strong team ethic and workplace culture in which we support, encourage and value each other.
Our educators have strengths, interests and knowledge that they contribute to the educational program.
For example, Kath has a keen interest in creating inspirational learning environments that invite children to discover and learn. She leads and mentors educators around the topic of aesthetics and the important role it plays in our environment. Rebecca has researched outdoor education and has an in depth knowledge around Forest Schools. She has visited Denmark and the United Kingdom to see the use of outdoor education in practice. Rebecca was instrumental in starting and driving the successful continuation of our Bush School program. Leesa has a background in horticulture and is passionate about the natural world. She is our resident expert on nature and the environment, and the educators, children and families will go to her if they have a question or want to know more about anything living.
Over the last five years, John Brotchie Nursery School has used action research and a whole service approach to support the professional development of educators, which then translates into our curriculum. Some of our projects to date have included a ‘mathematics in the preschool’ program, embedding Aboriginal perspectives, language and literacy into the curriculum and most recently, a STEM program. As a team, we collaborate on each action research project and bring our own professional development into the planning.
Our ‘mathematics in the preschool’ program began after our educators read ‘ECERS-E: The Four Curricular Subscales Extension to the Early Childhood Environment Rating Scale (ECERS-R)’ by Sylva, Siraj-Blatchford and Taggart (2011). Over a full year of collaborative critical reflection and self-assessment, we are able to incorporate concepts from this very helpful resource into the development of the mathematics program. We continue to regularly access other relevant resources and professional development courses to suit the needs of our service and interests of the children. We believe that the overall pedagogy is improved at the service this way.
Our educators find this style of professional development valuable because we learn as a team and take time to gain a deep understanding of new concepts. We enjoy the practical nature of action research, with the ability to implement as we learn. The success of projects such as ‘mathematics in the preschool’ has led to further action research projects and embedded an authentic culture of reflection, research, and re-action, repeat!
We love learning new things and learning from each other, and we embrace making changes that improve our practice and the outcomes for our children. We encourage others to have a team-based, whole service approach to focused professional development – they can see for themselves the impact it can have on their children at their service.
In the next instalment of our guest blog post series, Kathryn Wetenhall and Rebecca Andrews from John Brotchie Nursery School discuss the partnerships at their service and why relationships are important to their children’s educational and developmental outcomes.
Related resources to support your continuous quality improvement.
- ACECQA We Hear You blog: The importance of self-assessment in a culture of continuous quality improvement
- ACECQA We Hear You blog: Understanding critical reflection
- ACECQA Information sheet: QA7 Educational leadership and team building
- ACECQA Information sheet: Practical ideas to support continuous quality improvement
- ACECQA latest news: Genuine and sustained quality improvement is the result of collaborative effort (May 2020)
- Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership: Professional conversations
- ACECQA Quality Improvement Plan template and Self-Assessment Tool
- ACECQA Educational Leader Resource and accompanying videos