Some of Nova Scotia’s youngest learners will be better prepared for school thanks to a new pre-primary pilot program launched today, Dec. 1.
The pilot program will run for two years, providing 720 four-year-olds with an early childhood learning experience that is intended to help them adapt to Grade Primary more easily.
“This is an educational first for Atlantic Canada,” said Education Minister Jamie Muir, who officially launched the program at Elmsdale District School. “This program will help more young children get started on the right path.”
Research shows that a high-quality early childhood education program fosters a positive attitude toward learning, gives children a better educational foundation, and makes them better prepared for public school.
“I think this program will be a big advantage for my daughter before she starts Primary next year,” said parent Mary Ann Gallant-Davis, whose daughter, Krista, has been attending the Elmsdale program since October. “So far, I’m very impressed.”
The majority of the 19 pilot sites opened earlier this fall. The last five will begin in January 2006. Four are located in the Halifax Regional School Board and the fifth is in the South Shore Regional School Board.
Each pilot site offers a full-day, activity-based program for up to 18 children. Emphasis is on developing social skills, familiarizing children with the school structure, and helping them acquire the foundation skills they will need to read, write and learn mathematics. The program also as well as provides valuable experiences in the arts and physical activity.
“This program has really met the need in our community,” said Grant Dunn, principal of Carleton Consolidated School near Yarmouth. Carleton’s pilot program opened in September.
“We’ve been going less than four months, but already I can see the benefits to the children,” he said.
Mr. Dunn said Carleton’s 11 pre-primary students are thriving in the program. They are engaged in the curriculum, spending their day drawing, building with blocks, learning their ABCs, playing, and participating in school activities.
“They are very involved in our school life,” he said. “The older kids just love them.”
The program, which has been developed in partnership with the departments of Community Services and Health, and Nova Scotia Health Promotion is being piloted in all eight school boards.
Mr. Muir said care was taken by boards to place the pilots in schools where classroom space is available and access to community-based child care is limited.
“There are some excellent private programs in the province, but not all children have access to them,” he said.
The pilots, which are staffed by two qualified early childhood educators, will be evaluated at the end of the 2006-07 school year.
School boards will have the opportunity to make recommendations to government on the future of the program, Mr. Muir said.
A free ‘ready-to-learn’ pre-primary program was promised in the 2003 Blueprint for Building a Better Nova Scotia, and reaffirmed in Learning for Life II, the government’s new plan for education.