Staff and children at Muswellbrook's newest early education centre, St Nicholas Early Education, were delighted to receive a visit from NSW's Shadow Minister for Early Childhood Learning.
Jodie Harrison MP recently visited the 104-place early education and childcare centre, co-located with St James' Primary School, as part of her tour of early childcare centres across the State.
"Part of my job is to meet as many teachers and educators as possible so that I can have a good understanding of what's happening in the industry and what should be government policy," Ms Harrison MP said as she played in the sandpit alongside children and educators.
"I want to know what's working well, and what's not working, for educators and also families," she said.
The centre's director, Nicole McKenzie, showed Ms Harrison through St Nicholas' immersive natural outdoor play spaces and open-plan classrooms, specially designed to promote play-based learning.
"It's really exciting to see something that's been built for purpose," Ms Harrison said following her tour, "St Nicholas has a beautiful view and sits within its community really well."
Ms Harrison and Ms McKenzie were joined on tour by Aaron Moon, the principal of St James' Primary School.
Mr Moon is a regular visitor to the centre, reflective of St Nicholas' commitment to ensuring a smooth transition of children in their service to school.
"We understand that the transition from preschool to primary school is an incredible step in each child's learning journey," Ms McKenzie told Ms Harrison.
"Our Transition to School program provides children with the opportunity to become familiar with people such as Mr Moon and some of the students who will become their buddies if they choose to attend St James," Ms McKenzie said
Being co-located with St James' Primary School means preschool children who attend St Nicholas Early Education will also have the opportunity to go on excursions and experience the school firsthand before commencing kindergarten.
"One of the challenges that I often hear from early childhood educators is that they're concerned that a lot of the work they do in giving our little people the best possible start in life might not be picked up when they transition to school," Ms Harrison said.
"This setup, having a school right next to an early childhood centre, will hopefully mean that the transition is made so much easier for the children, but also provides an opportunity for a united approach to their education," Ms Harrison said.