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The early years – preparing kids for school, and school for kids

Trish Bursill with ECLC students Aurora and Jina: our approach in the early years fits our people, programs and facilities around our students to help them achieve their potential

Hear the words ‘school readiness’ and most of us think of children developing the skills to prepare for school, but school readiness is just as much about schools being ready for children – and that’s what Wesley’s early years programs are all about.


One of the fundamental things underpinning everything we do at Wesley is ensuring that our educators, programs and facilities are there to meet the needs of students. It’s an approach that aims to give every child all the support they need to thrive as they progress on their own unique learning journey.

As Donna Banks, Early Childhood Learning Centre (ECLC) Coordinator at our Glen Waverley Campus explains, ‘In our ECLCs each day, we honour the uniqueness and potential of every child and encourage them to make choices and extend on their learning in meaningful and relevant ways.’

‘We allow the children the time and space to develop, to imagine, to create and to explore through inquiry-based learning and play.’ Donna says. ‘Our programs value the principles and practises of the Reggio Emilia philosophy, is framed in terms of the International Baccalaureate Primary Years Program (IB PYP) and meeting the learning outcomes of the Victorian Early Years Learning and Development Framework.’

The early childhood learning environment

‘We know that the environment plays a significant role as the third teacher in developing and supporting children’s learning,’ Dianna McKellar, ECLC Coordinator at the St Kilda Road Campus, explains. ‘We aim to create an atmosphere that encourages children to be inclusive of others and be respectful of all living things.  We provide the children with purposeful connections to the world around them and recognise them as active citizens in our society.’

Zara, an ECLC student, uses a magnifying glass to look at casemoths

ECLC student Zara studies case moths: the environment in the early years is a ‘third teacher’ that promotes independent exploration, collaboration and learning through discovery and play

Visit any one of Wesley’s there ECLCs at our Elsternwick, Glen Waverley or St Kilda Road campuses and you’ll find the environment is an integral part of the curriculum, reflecting the identity and cultures of our children and families, and promoting independent exploration, collaboration and learning through discovery and play.

What do parents say?

When parents describe what they see in our ECLCs, you will hear them talk about the children having a sense of belonging, and their appreciation of the supportive and collaborative approach of our educators.

‘What I love about the ECLC, apart from how much the staff really care for all the children, is how the curriculum is constantly changing to meet the needs and interests of each child,’ says parent Leanne McComish. ‘The environment and activities change on a daily basis, and every change is directed to the individual needs and interests of the children. Because the staff know exactly where each child is at in their learning and interests, they’re able to help every child blossom. And I love the way the IB program runs all the way from ECLC to Year 12.’

ECLC student Amber experiments with the effects of ribbons while dancing.

ECLC student Amber experiments with the effects of ribbons while dancing.

‘The environment and activities change on a daily basis, and every change is directed to the individual needs and interests of the children.’ Leanne McComish, parent

Adds Darryl Wilson ‘The teachers create a very safe and supportive environment in the ECLC and use the natural interests of the children to build opportunities for exploration, learning and social bonding. They really have insight into the theory and practice of child development.’

For Meredith Zantuck, ‘The purposeful spaces and the play-based learning approach mean the children can let their imaginations run wild, which is so important in early years development. The ECLC spaces are expansive and safe, with lots of stimulating learning objects to discover, especially as the staff are always adapting the day-to-day program and environment, using the children’s interests to cultivate learning. My son Luke loves ECLC and his positive experience in these ECLC years should provide a strong foundation for his transition to Junior School.’

Prep-ready…

Starting Prep is an exciting time, and we support every child to ensure they have a smooth journey through this important transition. As Amanda Allan, ECLC Coordinator at our Elsternwick Campus, notes, many children are already familiar with the campus when they enter Prep from ECLC. ‘Having their own home base and at the same time being part of a larger school setting gives our ECLC children the most amazing learning opportunities. They have all the benefits of their home ECLC environment and the specialist programs and facilities available across the campus.’

‘Our ECLC children visit different areas of the campus and interact with our older students, especially in the Junior School, and they’re very familiar with the Junior School environment before Prep so they feel really confident when their Prep year begins. And when they’re in Prep, the ECLC is still there. Our doors are always open.’

As parent Aarti Das notes, ‘When your eight-year old in Year 3 comes home and tells you excitedly how he bumped into his ECLC teachers, you know he’s in a very happy and positive learning environment. The ECLC makes learning such a joy for our kids.’

…and child-ready

While Wesley’s three ECLCs are focussed on ensuring all children feel Prep-ready, Junior School staff across our three campuses are also focussed on ensuring the Prep program is child-ready, especially for Prep children new to Wesley. As Amanda points out, early years transitions are incredibly important. ‘”Starting school,” whether that’s Prep or ECLC, can be bumpy for some children. We work closely with our Junior School colleagues not only so that our four-year-olds begin Prep knowing a lot about the program but also so that their teachers know a lot about each child coming into Prep.

‘Getting to know each other is a two-way street. At the St Kilda Road Campus, for example, the home visits program enables our educators to get to know each child and their family coming into Prep. At the Elsternwick Campus, our regular playgroup for children from birth to three years means that children can get to know the ECLC environment.’

Feedback suggests our focus on good transitions is paying dividends. ‘We couldn’t be happier with our decision to commence Pavani’s early learning years with Wesley College,’ says parent Jaystina Dhimar. ‘From day one she has settled in. She feels safe and nurtured.  Her educators are enabling her and all the children to learn, giving them the freedom to discover, be creative and learn. A big thank you to Wesley and Pavani’s ECLC educators for helping her grow.’

Contact us

Contact us below to find out more about why the Herald Sun recently ranked our ECLC in its top 10 Victorian Best Childcare Centres, based on Australian Children’s Education and Care Quality Authority ratings.

To see our Elsternwick, Glen Waverley or St Kilda Road ECLC in action, we invite you to book a tour.

Join us at our Elsternwick playgroup for children from birth to three years, which runs 8.30 to 9.30am every Tuesday. For more information, contact +61 3 8102 6808 e.admissions@wesleycollege.edu.au

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