It’s about our chil­dren

Cape Breton Post - - Editorial - Zack Churchill Guest Shot Zach Churchill is Nova Sco­tia’s Min­is­ter of Ed­u­ca­tion and Early Child­hood De­vel­op­ment.

We know pre-pri­mary helps our chil­dren. Re­search shows early learn­ing is ben­e­fi­cial. Ed­u­ca­tional play-based pro­grams like our pre-pri­mary ini­tia­tive have been shown to im­prove so­cial, health and emo­tional out­comes and th­ese ben­e­fits last a life­time.

It will also save fam­i­lies thou­sands of dol­lars in child care costs every year.

Nova Sco­tia will be­come the third ju­ris­dic­tion in Canada to offer this type of pro­gram.

I re­cently an­nounced the first 50 pre-pri­mary class­rooms would open across the province this fall. We worked with school boards to select th­ese lo­ca­tions, based on where there was the great­est need. One of the main con­sid­er­a­tions was whether there were child care op­tions cur­rently avail­able in the com­mu­nity.

Pre-pri­mary will also cre­ate more job op­por­tu­ni­ties for early child­hood ed­u­ca­tors in the province.

This changes the land­scape for child care and early child­hood ed­u­ca­tion – we rec­og­nize that. That’s why we want to work with day­care providers to iden­tify op­por­tu­ni­ties for them in the new land­scape. We will work with the in­dus­try to ad­dress po­ten­tial im­pacts to their business, but our shared goal is to help more kids be bet­ter pre­pared for grade pri­mary.

In four years, all Nova Sco­tia fam­i­lies who want to par­tic­i­pate in pre-pri­mary will have the chance to do so. We are ex­pand­ing pre-pri­mary pro­gram­ming to all com­mu­ni­ties across the province. This means fam­i­lies who want to can choose to place their child in the free pro­gram.

Pre-Pri­mary has a huge, pos­i­tive im­pact on those who need it the most. It means that fam­i­lies – re­gard­less of in­come or where they live – will have ac­cess to this. In this way, it lev­els the play­ing field to en­sure all of our chil­dren have the op­por­tu­nity to suc­ceed.

This is an am­bi­tious plan. I rec­og­nize that. I’d like to ad­dress some of the ques­tions that have come up.

Un­like a reg­u­lar class­room, chil­dren will learn through play. They choose where they go and what they work on, ex­plor­ing var­i­ous ac­tiv­i­ties from wa­ter ta­bles, art, read­ing and build­ing. They will not be sit­ting at desks.

Although the 50 new classes will all be in schools, teach­ers are not ex­pected to as­sist with pre-pri­mary. Chil­dren will be sup­ported by trained, early child­hood ed­u­ca­tors.

All chil­dren par­tic­i­pat­ing in pre-pri­mary pro­grams will have the same ac­cess to special needs sup­ports that four-year-olds cur­rently have in reg­u­lated child care, at home or other early learn­ing ex­pe­ri­ences.

For ex­am­ple, pre-pri­mary chil­dren will have ac­cess to Early In­ten­sive Be­havioural In­ter­ven­tion, a pro­gram that pro­vides treat­ment for young chil­dren with autism spec­trum disor­der.

Pre-pri­mary will op­er­ate dur­ing the same hours as the school in which they are lo­cated. This sched­ule is sim­i­lar to the hours of other grade lev­els and will help pre-pri­mary chil­dren to move into stu­dent life the next year.

Pre-pri­mary is an op­tion for fam­i­lies. It is a free, vol­un­tary pro­gram that Nova Sco­tians can take ad­van­tage of if they choose to. Pre-pri­mary at­ten­dance is not re­quired to en­ter the school sys­tem.

Pre-pri­mary staff will be school board em­ploy­ees. The board’s re­cruit­ment process is well un­der­way to hire one early child­hood ed­u­ca­tor for every 10 chil­dren in the pro­gram.

I am ex­cited about how this pro­gram will help our chil­dren and fam­i­lies. When we in­vest in our chil­dren we are lay­ing the foun­da­tion for a stronger Nova Sco­tia and we are cre­at­ing more op­por­tu­ni­ties for all Nova Sco­tians.

We en­cour­age Nova Sco­tians to visit our web­site for more in­for­ma­tion: ed­net.ns.ca/pre-pri­mary .

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