Building a sense of belonging early is core to the success of Briar Road Preschool
Forming successful holistic relationships with children and families is a core priority for Briar Road Public School Preschool, which is located on Dharawal country in Airds NSW.
Recently the Briar Road team spoke with the New South Wales Department of Education about how they develop a strong sense of belonging through high expectation relationships, and about the importance of fostering a sense of belonging early in the partnership.
The service has a strong philosophy based on belonging, culture, and community, which is embedded and embraced in daily practices to create an inclusive environment. Carolyne Hutchinson, preschool teacher and assistant principal explained that building responsive relationships with each child starts during their orientation and transition process, supporting element 5.1.1.
Before children commence at Briar Road, all families are invited to attend several orientation sessions. During this time, families and children can build connections and a sense of trust with our educators and peers.
“We have always had a strong focus on children’s transition when they start with us – it is about developing a strong sense of belonging right from children’s first interactions and building those relationships with the educators and other children,” Ms Hutchinson said.
“We take a tailored and individual approach dependent on each child’s needs, and want them to feel that sense of safety, security and belonging,” she added.
The enrolment process strongly encourages families to share their background and heritage to ensure that the service can celebrate all cultures, significant events and history while incorporating these events into daily practices and programs.
The Preschool works closely with Aboriginal families to ensure it continues to close the gap.
Briar Road Public School Preschool displays a heritage wall for all children to feel a sense of belonging. For Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander families there is a mob wall, to share where they are from and who their mob is.
“Embedding culture and identity is a crucial part of our daily practice and having a prominent visual representation allows children and families to know that their culture and background is respected and embraced,” Ms Hutchinson continued.
The heritage and mob walls are “a great point of interaction and discussion” and build stronger relationships and sense of belonging, as the children and families connect and talk about both culture and respect.
The service has a range of daily practices that build positive child-centred interactions and collaborative learning, including a child led daily Acknowledgement to Country that has been designed into the mural displayed at the front of the preschool, and a child-directed daily emotional check-in.
“Our daily emotional check-in helps us to build relational trust, giving us insight into the emotional state of each child each day,” Ms Hutchinson said.
“Our educators are responsive, supportive and unpack with each child their emotions, and it is also a valuable opportunity for the children to develop empathy, as we talk about why a person might be feeling a certain way,” she added.
The service takes a collaborative approach in both the programs and practices delivered, as well as their connection to the wider Briar Road Public School community.
The ‘Risky Play program’ allows children to work together to identify and assess risks in play based learning, in line with element 5.2.1.
“This program allows the children to build stronger relationships together as there is a focus on working collaboratively as a team,” Ms Hutchinson added.
“Children are learning to collaborate to identify and assess risk across every aspect of learning – children build confidence to try new skills and take safe risks with other children.”
As a strong P-6 school, the preschool children are supported to feel that they are part of the wider Briar Road Public School community from the time they start at preschool.
“Our relationship focus goes across the whole school, with the children attending and participating in weekly school activities and many school events including Reconciliation Week and NAIDOC week activities and the school sports carnivals and many other events,” Ms Hutchinson said.
“Each child also has a school buddy to be their role model and build a relationship with during the year before commencing in kindergarten. The following year, kindergarten teachers also spend time getting to know the preschool children the year before they start school.”
This constant connection allows the children to build strong relationships and support with the school students and teachers, and allows them to benefit from having a wide circle of relationships of people they trust, feeling part of the school community which makes their transition to Kindergarten smoother.
For more information about Briar Road Public School Preschool, please see here.
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