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  • Writer's pictureProfessor Martin Westwell

A Message from the Chief Executive

Every child has a unique outlook on the world, shaped by their individual experiences, which helps them form their identity as a person, family member, and learner.


While every stage in a child’s development is crucial, we know that in the early years, the greater variety of experiences (which form important brain connections), the more opportunities children have to thrive in the world.



When children have limited experiences, their view of the world can be narrow. We see this reflected in a variety of ways, including in children’s behaviour, for example, self-regulation, turn taking, and empathy. Widening their experience base is an important part of their development.


Preschool provides an opportunity for children to develop important social interaction skills, learn from other children with different life views, and build a bank of new brain connections. It is a place for children to interact with a community of other 4-year- olds to become the best 4-year-old they can be.


South Australian preschool educators play a vital role in delivering a broad range of intentional experiences that are meaningful for the unique group of kids in front of them. They have a profound effect on a child’s ability to squeeze as much as they can out of being a 4-year-old.


This shows that while preschool is a universal service, that every child should have access to, there’s no one size fits all approach.


Every child is different, and educators have the flexibility to tailor what they do in their classrooms, but there’s a very clear shared purpose to develop children’s language, cognitive, and social skills. All these things are outlined in the recently updated Early Years Learning Framework version 2.0, which underpins much of the work in our preschools.


As parents, we often worry that we can’t do everything perfectly to support our child’s development, but we needn’t get caught up in some unattainable idea of ‘Instagram parenthood’. You can actually have a huge impact on your child’s development through simple engagement. Whether it’s asking questions while you’re driving, talking about shopping choices – quality interaction occurs when we make the most of those everyday opportunities.


 

Words: Professor Martin Westwell

Professor Westwell is the Chief Executive of the Department for Education. He was previously the Chief Executive of the SACE Board. He has worked extensively with education systems and other organisations in using evidence to inform policy, practice, innovation and impact in education.


 

Originally published in Connected Caregiving Autumn 2023

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