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Preschool

Like father, like son

Codie Banks was one of ACG Strathallan’s founding Senior school students – and now 18 years later his son Cooper is following in his footsteps at ACG Strathallan Preschool.

“We thought it was pretty neat that Cooper could be one of the first second generations to attend the school,” says mum Lauren, who also plans to start daughter Harper (three months) at the Preschool next year.

“Strathallan Preschool is so much more than just a day care, everything they do creates incredible learning opportunities for the children. The environment is warm and inviting and the staff are nurturing. Cooper has grown in confidence because he’s always encouraged and made to feel comfortable.”

With plans to send Cooper and Harper onto ACG Strathallan Primary, starting off at the Preschool facilitates a seamless transition.

“We believe no one is better at preparing their students for Primary than the school itself, so Cooper is getting the best start to his education. We hope this makes his transition to Primary easy and that some of his Preschool friends will be transitioning alongside him.”

At 13 months Cooper started in the Infant Preschool, and he hasn’t looked back.

“The bond he formed with teachers there and the low staff turnover meant he always felt settled and happy, in fact he still runs into Infants to say goodbye to his old teachers most afternoons.”

In his happy place outside or doing art and messy play, Cooper was given plenty of encouragement to hone-in on and expand his interests.

“The Infant centre has an undercover outdoor area so Cooper could go outside regardless of the weather. Learning opportunities were created from things he was interested in and not just generalised. This taught him from a young age that learning is fun and it’s great to try new things. As with most kids, his interests changed and we were impressed by how well these were picked up.”

Now two-and-a-half and in the Junior Preschool, Cooper is still engaged and inspired.

“He’s now building on the strong foundations he gained in the Infant centre and adding to this at an age-appropriate level. He loves being with the bigger kids and having a bigger playground to run around in. He also loves that there’s playdough to play with and lots of opportunities to paint and draw.”

But it’s the host of extra activities, like family discos and school holiday programmes, that Lauren believes really set ACG Strathallan Preschool apart.

“Every school holidays staff implement a two-week school holiday programme with something exciting happening each day – from baking and cooking, to playing in the school gym or bringing their bikes and scooters. The organisation behind this programme is huge and the teachers make such a big effort to ensure its success.”

But going above and beyond seems to be par for the course for ACG Strathallan Preschool teachers.

“Teachers use an app called Storypark to keep parents updated with what their kids have been up to. They put so much time and effort into doing this – the updates are often done out of hours which shows how committed they are and how much they care.”

Small group sizes and high teacher to child ratios have also brought big benefits.

“The excellent ratios mean your child is not just a number and you know they’re getting the attention they need to learn and grow. It also enables the teachers to deliver their best.”

And deliver they do, even during lockdowns.

“I couldn’t be prouder to say Cooper attends Strathallan Preschool after how well staff handled this year’s Covid-19 lockdowns. Despite only being a preschool, they arranged two or three zoom calls every day to keep in contact with the kids and they had daily activities which not only helped the children learn but assisted the parents in entertaining them!

“No one else I spoke to had anything close to this with their early childhood facility so this just goes to show how far ACG goes to support children’s learning.”

And if all this wasn’t enough, Lauren says the icing on the cake has been the introduction of baby sign language into the centre.

“I have a close friend who is a sign language interpreter and has deaf parents so signing has a special place with us. Seeing this introduced at Strathallan was amazing and allowed Cooper to express to his teachers what he wanted at a very early age. He picked it up very quickly and would often come home signing and saying the words at the same time. More recently he has started to sign the alphabet when he sings his ABCs.

“Given sign language is an official language of New Zealand, I think it’s incredible to see it introduced to children at such a young age.”

It’s safe to say that the Banks family’s experience at ACG Strathallan Preschool has been nothing but positive.

“We couldn’t be more impressed with how ACG Strathallan Preschool is nurturing our little boy. You know it’s a quality centre when the first thing he says at pick up is ‘I had a good day today Mummy’.”