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Welcome to The Goodstart Way

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At Goodstart Early Learning, we have a unique approach to the way we work, which is based on our Goodstart Practice Guide (the Guide) and its ISTEP framework.

The Guide brings together the latest international research evidence of what works best for children and guides what our educators do in their everyday professional practice.  It was written with an understanding of Australia’s unique context and is underpinned by relevant state and national regulations and frameworks, such as Australia’s Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF) and the National Quality Standards (NQS).

Every educator in every centre in our network has a copy of the Guide, although the way in each implements the practices and applies the ISTEP framework, will be unique to their local context, and the children and families in their centre.

The Guide recognises the importance of play, as the research evidence consistently shows that children learn best through play-based learning programs which allow children to explore new ideas and test emerging skills.  Play can expand children’s thinking and enhance their desire to know and learn. 

In Goodstart centres, our goal is for your child to feel safe and secure, to have fun and to develop the social-emotional, thinking, language, and physical skills that will set them up for success in school and in life.

Our evidence-informed learning environments build on children’s curiosity, growing abilities, and their inclination to engage with each other and the world around them.

Our educators plan and observe their daily practices through (and you will hear them talk about) our ISTEP framework.  There are five components to ISTEP:

1. Interactions and relationships
2. Space, resources and materials
3. Time, routines and rituals
4. Experiences for learning
5. Planning, documentation and evaluation

Below we talk about each, and how they connect and work together.


1. Interactions and relationships

The research evidence consistently shows that young children thrive in early childhood settings where they have positive and secure relationships with those around them. 

This helps them cope with the challenges and stressors of daily life.  Children become more resilient, they can self-regulate and they develop empathy and learn to understand others.  At Goodstart, we recognise that interactions are the building blocks of secure relationships. 

Everything we do at Goodstart takes into account the importance of interactions and relationships – among children, between educators and children, among educators, and between educators and families, between families and with our communities.

Our educators pay attention to children’s cues and develop a deep knowledge of individual children – how they think, feel and act – so that they can be truly responsive to each individual child.  We’ll build a relationship with your child and get to know their individual, unique preferences and abilities. We’ll also help them develop friendships in which they feel secure and respected. 

We also want to get to know you!  Our educators will always welcome you into the centre.  They will value your unique knowledge about your child and will want to listen to your hopes and aspirations for your child and will be happy to share any concerns. At all times our educators will recognise and reinforce your primary importance in the life of your child.


2. Space, resources and materials

When you enter a Goodstart Early Learning centre, you’ll find furniture, equipment, resources and play materials that will spark your child’s curiosity and enrich their explorations and interactions. Our indoor spaces are designed to be flexible and change according to the needs of the learning experiences and play that is happening.

Our educators design the physical environment to include appropriate space and resources that are suitable for the children’s ages and abilities.  Our environments have both busy and quiet spaces, to enable children to engage in active and calming experiences.   

In our centres, children use many open-ended learning materials, such as sand and play dough, which they can manipulate, shape, and adapt.  These materials, which have no specific set of directions, help children develop creativity and problem-solving skills.

At Goodstart, we also value our outdoor spaces. Research shows that when play structures such as climbers and slides are replaced, or minimised, with grass and shrubs, children increase their pretend play, language and creativity. We encourage pretend play, art, water play and physically-active play such as running, crawling, rolling and jumping.  Our outdoor spaces are both fun and a continuation of the learning environment.


3. Time, routines and rituals

We recognise that routines can help bring children pleasure and create a sense of security. Planning for routines that contribute to children’s learning, development and wellbeing are important at Goodstart and individual abilities and interests are taken into account.

Research shows children’s learning is best supported during focussed small-group times, guided by educators.  Small groups provide a great opportunity for your child to form peer-connections and friendships.  At Goodstart, your child will enjoy intentional small-group times, which are responsive to children’s input and in which our educators purposefully plan to extend their learning.

Large-group experiences may also be created, to build a sense of community within the centre.  Additionally, your child will also take part in individual learning experiences, especially in the infant and toddler rooms, where there are lots of opportunities for one-to-one nurturing care.

We have daily routines which encourage children to become active participants in their eating, sleeping and care routines, such as applying sunscreen. This gives children maximum opportunity to make their own decisions and starts to build their ability to self-manage.


4. Experiences for learning

Not surprisingly, research shows that play is what matters most to children about their daily lives in early childhood centres. From the moment your child steps into one of our centres they are learning, and play is their anchor for learning.  As well as being enjoyable and fun, it’s how children organise and make sense of the world around them. Play offers your child planned and spontaneous opportunities to practice emerging skills. It also supports their language, social and emotional wellbeing and thinking abilities.

At Goodstart, our educators organise early learning environments and experiences to challenge children during their play, allowing them to practice and master new skills in a safe way.

Educators help infants and toddlers learn though repetition, story-telling, pictures and exploration, as well as back and forth chatter between educators and children. This might only be in half words, sounds and gestures, but our educators will respond to your child in ways that ensure they continue to develop.

Infants rely on all of their senses as they explore their surroundings, while toddlers experiment with tools and learn to manipulate objects. Toddlers are often purposeful in their play, building things, knocking them down, working out what happens next. They often use play to work out what actions are needed to achieve a desired outcome and experiment with objects to accomplish a particular purpose.

With older children, Goodstart educators plan opportunities for children to use language and communication skills in meaningful ways in a variety of contexts. We use books and technology to help preschool children learn about how the world works. We introduce children to different ways of using language and encourage them to develop competency and expand their vocabulary.

In our centres children are encouraged to use print materials and they learn to view talking, reading and writing as integral parts of daily life. Alphabetic principles are introduced and books are shared. Mathematics concepts, such as numeracy, are explored through ideas such as, more or less, taking away, size, location, pattern and position. 

The educators at Goodstart will purposefully plan for, and encourage your child to participate in, many different types of learning-through-play, to ensure their days are fun and varied, and that, at the same time, their learning is enhanced. 


5. Planning, documentation and evaluation

Children love to play together.  When our educators organise and intentionally plan the learning environment using ISTEP (interactions, space, time and experiences), the opportunity for learning is increased.

At Goodstart our organisational purpose is to ensure all children have the learning, development and wellbeing outcomes they need, for school and life. Our educators will assess your child’s understandings, dispositions, knowledge and skills to help support planning specifically for your child.  The learning program is inclusive of all children and their learning needs.

We know you’ll want detailed information about your child’s progress.  We’ll gather information on your child’s experiences through notes, pictures and videos and provide regular updates of your child’s learning journey.  Most of our centres can do this online through the StoryPark platform.  We can also give you ideas on how to support your child’s learning at home. Together, and with you and your child central to everything we do, we will help build your child’s learning, development and wellbeing.

About Goodstart Early Learning
Goodstart Early Learning is Australia’s largest provider of early childhood education and care in a long day care setting, with nearly 650 centres across Australia.  It is a charitable, social enterprise, with a strong commitment to social inclusion.  Goodstart Early Learning exists for purpose, not profit.
Please note:  If you would like to see a copy of The Goodstart Practice Guide and the ISTEP framework, please ask any of the educators at your Goodstart centre. 
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