ECEC Provider in Focus: St Kilda and Balaclava Kindergarten
St Kilda and Balaclava Kindergarten (SKBK) is a community run long day care kindergarten that has served local families for over 110 years. The 55 place service has twice been rated as Exceeding the National Quality Standard, most recently in May 2021.
What is the history of SKBK?
SKBK is one of the oldest continuing Kindergarten services in Victoria, and is in the unique position of the community owning both the building and the land where SKBK is situated.
Current Director Tarryn Holland shared the following reflection:
“SKBK has a long and rich history that has always put the needs of the community first. We have a strong culture of advocacy for the sector and also many social justice themes. I have read AGM minutes from 50+ years ago and the conversations were often about how the committee could look after the educators and their rights to ensure the highest quality of care.”
What is the SKBK vision and approach to learning?
SKBK has a strong play based philosophy in which children have a high degree of autonomy over the structure of their day.
Being involved in risky play is a high priority for the service, as is outdoor learning, regardless of the weather.
SKBK strives to be a home away from home for children, and also for their families.
“The scale of both the indoor and outdoor areas enable ample opportunity for children to have real ‘adventures’ and gain a sense of independence and wonder in their environment,” Ms Holland said.
“From mud and messy play to gardening, construction and even trapeze, the space and equipment provide unique opportunities for active and imaginative play that extend children’s capabilities and confidence. As children engage with the environment at their own pace, they learn the skills to take on new challenges, problem solve and make safe choices. It is our hope that this provides a foundation for a successful transition to school and the development of general life skills.”
What is SKBK’s approach to educator professional development?
SKBK has a team of 17 Educators, five of whom are early childhood teachers, ten of whom hold a Diploma qualification, and two who hold a Certificate III.
“We have a very strong PD budget and encourage the team to attend as much PD as they wish,” Ms Holland said.
In 2023 four of the team were sent to Sydney for the Inspire Conference, and one to Adelaide to attend the Early Childhood Australia conference.
A consultant was also engaged to support the service as a whole throughout the year, and educators who proposed alternative PD were supported to participate.
Are there any unique aspects to the service?
The service operates above ratio (typically 1:6 or 1:7) and there is low staff turnover.
Indoor open fireplaces are used in the winter, the children have enjoyed trapeze lessons for more than 20 years, and the service has undertaken an intergenerational program where children catch the tram to a local nursing home each Tuesday afternoon.
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