The KindiCare Excellence Awards celebrate the top performing early childhood education and care centres right across Australia.
2022 Award Winners
Essex Heights Juniors
KindiCare●August 29th, 2022
Essex Heights Juniors Located in Mount Waverly Victoria is this year’s overall winner as well as the state winner for Victoria. With a perfect KindiCare Rating of 10 and an Excellent Rating from ACECQA, this well-loved service has a long track record in delivering high quality education and care to the local community.
Paula Papanicolaou has been the owner/director of Essex Heights Juniors for 25 years, which has contributed to the consistent approach to educational programming and the strong culture of learning within the service. “Our service boasts 11 Bachelor or Master qualified teachers throughout the five rooms of the service. This allows for strong pedagogy to be embedded within our service, while implementing effective mentoring to the team from experienced and professional staff,” Paula told KindiCare. Essex Heights Juniors are true leaders in the field of early education and are regularly approached by the Victorian Department of Education to share their expertise. They also established a professional support network for directors to boost other local centres. While there are many outstanding aspects to Essex Heights Juniors and a standout is the focus on wellbeing. “We have two wellbeing officers one is responsible for the wellbeing of staff and one is responsible for the wellbeing of children. They are provided with professional development and planning times to implement programs, events, as well as networking and researching support organisations,” Paula said. The service also enables and encourages educators to be fully involved in planning the educational programs. “This ensures all staff feel valued and supported, which provides a consistent learning approach within teams.” “In addition, our educational leader is full time off the floor which further supports staff in all rooms during the week, as well as enabling educators to have private one-to-one sessions exploring the development of their learning goals,” said Paula. “Many of our specialist teacher roles (e.g., language, music and sport teachers) are all from within our service, again allowing their interest and expertise to be valued and implemented for the benefit of the children.” The service also has very strong connections with the local community, including primary schools and aged care facilities. “We have linked with age care facilities where the children have sung songs during Christmas time. The aged care service reciprocates and contributes by repairing books and mending our cooking aprons, helping their residents feel valued within their community.” Sustainability is also important and is embedded across the service’s teaching and operational practices. “We have a plot at our local community garden, where we plant produce with the children and bring back fresh vegetables to enable our cook to use within our recipes or cooking experiences with the children. This also helps teach children and families about sustainable practices,” Paula said. All in all, Paula says good communication and relationships are at the core of the service: “Our parents always say they feel connected and that our service provides that family feel they are looking for in regards to care for their child.”