Te Aho o Te Kura Pounamu (Te Kura) takes early childhood education into the home for families who live more than six kilometres from the nearest licensed ECE centre.
This unique, distance-based service offers parents the opportunity to participate in their child’s early learning with the support of experienced teachers.
Te Kura (formerly The Correspondence School) has around 500 early childhood students between three and five years of age. The early childhood service has 16 registered ECE teachers who work one-to-one with the families of the children on its roll.
Teachers at Te Kura work in partnership with whānau, providing an individualised programme for each child and support via telephone, email, letters and events held in the regions. Teachers also use Storypark to further develop their relationship with whānau.
Families are sent learning materials, as well as information on child development and ideas for activities that whānau can do with their child at home. Te Kura provides specialised resources that are sent to the home, such as games, books, music CDs, puzzles and activities. A dedicated website also offers games, puzzles and ideas for activities, as well as a gallery of children’s work, online enrolment details and information about enrolling with Te Kura.
Early childhood manager Jenny Hayes says the service strives to provide high-quality early childhood education in the home for families who might not otherwise be able to access it.
“We are able to support children in their own context in a way that draws on their natural surroundings and is wholly inclusive of parents and, potentially, the wider community.”
“Many children on the roll come from traditional farming families or are living in rural, isolated areas. We also have a number of children living in cities and small towns, such as children who have special learning needs and those who are unable to regularly attend face-to-face early childhood services for medical reasons.
“Our teachers are experienced at providing a distance programme to fit in with each child’s personal circumstances. They work closely with parents to provide a personalised learning programme that takes into account their child’s interests, surroundings and learning opportunities.
“Sometimes parents aren’t sure how they’ll get on,” says Jenny. “But one of the aims of our service is to empower parents as teachers, and often parents are pleasantly surprised.”
Children enrolled with the service can also attend a local face-to-face preschool programme for up to eight hours each week, meaning they can get the best of both worlds.
Teachers from the school’s base in Wellington travel regularly to communities across the country to hold event days, which are an opportunity for children and parents to come together, meet teachers and do some practical learning together. Jenny says Te Kura’s early childhood service offers real benefits for eligible families who want to be involved in their child’s early education. “We are able to support children in their own context in a way that draws on their natural surroundings and is wholly inclusive of parents and, potentially, the wider community.”
The Ministry of Education sets enrolment criteria for Te Kura, including for its early childhood service. Children may be eligible to enrol with Te Kura for early childhood education if:
- they are under six years of age
- the family lives more than 6km from the nearest licensed early childhood centre and the child attends a licensed early childhood centre for less than 8 hours per week
- they have high health needs, special educational needs or there are special family circumstances preventing attendance at a face-to-face early childhood centre. H