Give the gift of learning

Preparations for Christmas are well under way - advent candles have been lit, carols can be heard far and wide, Christmas trees have taken over lounge rooms and festive gatherings are in full swing. 

Many will spend time pondering what makes for a perfect gift, only to resort to fast fashion, plastic toys or a store voucher.

But in writing up shopping lists, what if we were to draw inspiration from Greek philosopher Aristotle, who declared “education is an ornament in prosperity and a refuge in adversity.” It seems the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle might have done just that.  St Nicholas, patron saint of children and namesake of the Diocese’s early education provider, will deliver the gift of increased access to education to youngsters across the region from early in the New Year.   

St Nicholas Early Education currently operates six services across the Hunter with centres located in Chisholm, Singleton, Cardiff and Lochinvar, as well as Newcastle West and Raymond Terrace, which are both undergoing expansion projects to increase enrolment capacity. In early 2020, new centres will open in Maitland and Branxton, and by mid-year, Gillieston Heights and Muswellbrook will come on board once all centres are operational, the total enrolment capacity of St Nicholas will increase by 404 places, five days per week — almost double the current offerings. 

 Reflecting on this season of peace, love and joy, Diocesan chief executive officer Sean Scanlon sees commitment to supporting family life as the hallmark of a civilized society and the church's motivation for opening new centres.

 “One aspect of this is providing high-quality education services in communities where they are needed most,” Mr Scanlon said.

“St Nicholas Early Education is a not-for-profit organisation. We strive to create inclusive communities that welcome families from all walks and join with them in partnership to facilitate their child’s social, intellectual and physical development.”

 The move to develop additional centres will bolster employment opportunities across the region both during construction and eventually, once operational, with the creation of 100 new jobs.

 St Nicholas general operations manager Kerri Armstrong says the organisations’ current services are well sought after with high occupancy rates.

 “Influenced by a Reggio Emilia-inspired curriculum, our educators encourage children to be curious learners, and empower them to be active members of the community,” Ms Armstrong said.

 “This high-quality approach to education has been well received by families at our existing centres, as they see their children developing a passion for learning. For us, this is the greatest gift we can share with children, as it places them in good stead for life.”

This festive season, students from St Nicholas Early Education centres will continue to take part in excursions to local schools and nursing homes. Ms Armstrong says that the benefit of these visits is shown through the deeper relationships between the pre-schoolers and the aged as well as with older school pupils. 

 “As we look to 2020, our team is very excited that we will have the opportunity to work together in new communities to build a stronger and kinder society that values children, families and intergenerational relationships,” Ms Armstrong said.

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Lizzie Watkin

Lizzie is Team Leader Content for the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle.

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