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Education the Playcentre Way

22nd Mar 2006
Education the Playcentre Way

For more than 55 years Playcentre has been nurturing young New Zealanders, supporting thousands of children aged 0 ­ 6 years as they play and grow the Playcentre way.

Playcentre is celebrating its unique contribution to New Zealand early childhood education with a national Awareness Week Awareness Week. From March 19 ­ 25, Playcentres are promoting the importance of pre-literacy through a collaboration with public libraries throughout the country. Wristbands will be sold and a portion of the proceeds will be donated to public libraries, while displays and promotions will highlight the many ways in which pre-literacy (the skills needed before reading can be taught) can be developed.

At the heart of Playcentre is the philosophy of child-initiated play or free play. Simply put, Playcentre children are free to choose from a variety of activities, deciding what they want to do, when and for how long. Adults are on hand to provide a safe environment, support the child and offer suggestions to extend their play and their learning.

Playcentre holds that a long-term result of this approach to early childhood education is that these children grow to become confident decision-makers who take responsibility for their actions and choices.

The Competent Children studies, which have been ongoing 1996, have ranked the quality of Playcentre¹s early childhood education programme as amongst the highest of all the early childhood services in the study. It also found that ex-Playcentre children scored significantly higher than others in maths, even years after leaving Playcentre, and that they were particularly strong on perseverance.

The activities at New Zealand¹s 519 Playcentres offer children more than enjoyment ­ activities are designed as educational opportunities through which children can discover more about themselves, their peers and the world around them.

As a parent co-operative, Playcentre can offer significantly lower adult-to-child ratios than other early childhood organisations. The maximum ratio of 1:5 (and as low as 1:3 in some areas) is considerably less than kindergarten¹s average 1:15 ratio and provides more one-on-one interaction and learning opportunities. Children¹s ability to develop reciprocal and responsive relationships with adults is considered one of the most important factors in measuring the quality of early childhood education, and in this area Playcentre is particularly strong

The Competent Children studies found that smaller group sizes coupled with these more favourable adult-child ratios resulted in a very high quality experience at Playcentre.

Playcentre offers a safe, fun learning environment for all New Zealand children. Mixed-age sessions offer early social integration and teach children valuable communication skills. The organisation observes Te Whariki (the national early childhood curriculum) which views and treats all children as individuals.

Playcentre embraces and reflects the culture diversity of New Zealand/Aotearoa and teaches children to celebrate and respect the uniqueness of all New Zealanders. Playcentre has a strong commitment to biculturalism, acknowledging Te Tiriti O Waitangi and incorporating the principals of partnership in its policies and practices. Playcentre also observes the Universal Bill of Human Rights, particularly in relation to the rights of children.


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