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The Early Learner

The Early Learner is the child in the age span from birth to eight years old, however for Catholic schools in the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle the focus of Early Learning is the child transitioning into Kindergarten and the child in the school years of Kindergarten, Year 1 and Year 2.   

The spiritual, emotional, social, academic and physical development of young children has a direct effect on their overall development and on the adult they will become. That is why understanding the need to invest in very young children is so important, so as to maximise their future wellbeing.

The quality of a child’s earliest environments and the availability of appropriate experiences at the right stages of development are crucial determinants of the way each child’s brain architecture develops.

The research is conclusive that the Early Learning years of Early Childhood is a time of remarkable growth with brain development at its peak. During this stage, children are highly influenced by the environment and the people that surround them. Early Childhood is more than just a preparatory stage assisting the child’s transition to formal schooling. It is a time of holistic development of a child’s social, emotional, cognitive and physical needs in order to build a solid and broad foundation of lifelong learning and wellbeing. (UNESCO, 2016).

CSO and Early Learning

The Catholic Schools Office is committed to implementing and resourcing a cohesive, system-wide approach to Early Learning that is based on agreed philosophy, pedagogy, best practice and current research in the field. 

In 2018, an Early Learning Policy was launched to articulate a system-wide commitment to Early Learning which supports diocesan schools to implement agreed philosophy and pedagogy. It acknowledges current research and best practice in the field, which respects the rights, capabilities and needs of the Early Learner to achieve success and build the successful foundations to flourish in their learning.

The Early Learning Policy aims to:

  • Raise school and system awareness of the importance of the early years to learning for all children
  • Build staff knowledge and understanding, skills and capabilities that enable best practice in Early Learning
  • Provide advice and guidelines to school and system personnel in the development and implementation of Early Learning initiatives.

The Education Officer, Early Learning works with schools to support the implementation of the Early Learning Policy. Support is offered in a variety of ways depending on the priorities and needs of each school and includes but is not limited to:   

  • Supporting schools within their own context to implement the Declarations and Key Elements of Early Learning which includes collection and analysis of data, a greater understanding of play as a pedagogy and self-determined play, the re-imaging of indoor and outdoor environments and developing transition to school processes
  • Coordinating the collection of relevant data for system and school use from the Australian Early Development Census (AEDC) and other data sources, to inform practice and decision-making
  • Disseminating information and research
  • Planning and facilitating professional learning opportunities
  • Assisting teachers to re-image units of work for the Early Learner and set up provocations
  • Developing a process of playground improvements involving school community stakeholders
  • Parent and community talks and workshops.

School Involvement

This policy applies to all primary schools and system personnel in the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle and is read in conjunction with the procedure document. 

Schools are:

  • Implementing the Declarations and Key Elements of Early Learning by ensuring data, play, environments and transitions are an integral part of pedagogy and practice 
  • Planning for and embedding a sustainable approach to Early Learning within the school’s philosophy of learning
  • Using data and evidence-based research to inform practice
  • Enabling a curriculum that meets and furthers individual student rights, needs and capabilities
  • Supporting well-planned and articulated educational and transition programs utilising a variety of approaches and best practice appropriate to the Early Learner
  • Providing students with access to supportive social, pastoral and educational environments to realise their holistic wellbeing
  • Communicating, consulting and collaborating with parents and the diocesan community to develop shared understanding about Early Learning.