A number of preschool services and early childhood settings have been named as finalists in the South Australian Public Education Awards.
Established in 2011 to showcase excellence in the public education system, the awards recognise the achievements of teachers, leaders, allied health, support and corporate staff across the state.
A list of the 2023 Public Education Awards categories and finalists appears below, highlighting the early years finalists. For a full list of finalists from across all categories, please see here.
Excellence in Learner Agency Award
Finalist – Klemzig Kindergarten and Occasional Care: Amplifying learner agency through pedagogical documentation and collaboration for impact
The team at Klemzig Kindergarten and Occasional Care has demonstrated a strong commitment to empowering learners to exercise their agency.
By transitioning to an inclusive approach they’ve created a culture that fosters trust and collaboration among children, staff, parents and their wider community. A key aspect of their practice is the use of pedagogical documentation, which serves as the foundation for creating learning experiences to build children’s agency.
The children and staff at the kindergarten collaboratively researched, planned, designed and built a chicken obstacle course and toys, fostering a sense of responsibility and idea generation. By working collaboratively with each child, respecting their ideas and engaging in sustained shared thinking, the team empowers learners to become decision-makers in their learning journey.
Inclusive Practices in Education Award
Finalist – Bains Road Preschool: Exemplary inclusive education that inspires engagement
The Bains Road Preschool has gained recognition and high regard within the community, attracting families from various agencies seeking its inclusive learning environment.
Referrals come from organisations like Flinders Child Assessment Team, DCP, Novita and Autism SA.
The preschool prioritises high-quality education for all children, regardless of their abilities and stands as a model of inclusive education. Their exceptional inclusive education practices have improved outcomes for learners with disabilities, and their inclusive approach promotes a sense of belonging and empowerment, supporting social and emotional growth.
The nurturing environment ensures every child feels valued, respected and supported in their learning journey. Their highly skilled educators collaborate with agencies to enhance their practices and achieve strong outcomes for children and families.
Excellence in Leadership Award
Finalist – Natalie Stormonth: Preschool Director, Dernancourt Kindergarten
Under Natalie’s leadership, Dernancourt Kindergarten is recognised as an exemplar of a quality preschool, attracting visitors from across the state.
Fostering a culture of high expectations, she nurtures an empowering learning environment where children are seen as competent, curious and courageous learners.
To promote cultural understanding and connection to Country, Natalie ensures that Aboriginal perspectives are integrated into learning experiences and she cultivates an inclusive and culturally safe space for everyone.
Highly regarded within the leaders’ group, Natalie actively engages with colleagues across networks, sharing expertise to inform new ways of working.
Outstanding Reconciliation Initiatives Award
Finalist – Ngaitalya and Reconciliation: Ways of being, Padniadlu wadu: how we journey, Stirling District Kindergarten
Reconciliation activities are woven into the fabric of learning and play at Stirling District Kindergarten. Educators collaborate with Aboriginal people and families to provide authentic experiences that shape the perspectives of young learners, promoting understanding, respect and empathy for Aboriginal cultures.
Children spend time with and learn from Aboriginal people and Elders, engaging in activities such as animal tracking, shelter building and spiritual ceremonies. These experiences extend beyond the preschool, inspiring interactions of respect and kindness in their daily lives.
Stirling District Kindergarten’s reconciliation initiatives have a ripple effect that extends to families building understanding and action in the broader community.
Finalist – Nunga Playgroup, Kirton Point Children’s Centre (Barngarla Country): Building reconciliation through relationships and inclusive education
The Nunga Playgroup serves as a powerful example of reconciliation through relationships, inclusive practices and community engagement.
The playgroup actively includes Aboriginal culture in displays and resources and provides quality early childhood play experiences, promoting socialisation skills through a variety of activities. It also provides new food experiences and lunchbox suggestions, along with referrals and support from the Port Lincoln Aboriginal Health Service.
They offer various preschool options for three-year-olds to encourage early engagement with the education system.
The success of the playgroup lies in the genuine relationships built between the Early Links Coordinator Carly Orchard, and Aboriginal families, having earned her the title of ‘Aunty’. With the guidance of Aboriginal Elder Leona, Carly shares her deepened understanding of Aboriginal histories and cultures with the whole team at the centre.
Outstanding Safety Initiatives Award
Finalist – Keeping Safe: Child Protection Curriculum, Curriculum Program Directorate, Promoting child safety through innovative and ever-evolving education
The Keeping Safe Child Protection Curriculum Program is a shining example of innovation and dedication to create safe and inclusive learning environments. The curriculum has had a significant impact on promoting child safety and empowering children and young people.
It has supported educators in more than 1,800 childcare centres, preschools, schools and pre-service teachers globally for more than 15 years. It currently reaches over 500,000 learners and continues to grow.
The curriculum has shaped national policies on child abuse, domestic violence, online safety and the Australian Federal Police’s resources. Continuous improvement through regular updates based on participant feedback and emerging issues is a hallmark of the curriculum.
An awards ceremony will be held on the evening of Friday 3 November at the Adelaide Convention Centre. The event will also be streamed on the Department for Education SA Facebook page.