DURBAN - Reddam House Ballito Early Learning School (ELS) located on KwaZulu-Natal’s north coast, opened its doors to its first pupils in January this year, and celebrated with an official opening earlier this month.
The R40-million school features 16 Reggio Emilia-inspired classrooms, a multi-purpose centre, and playgrounds built to encourage curiosity and a love of learning, as well as administrative and dining facilities.
The Reggio Emilia approach to education is widely used as a teaching approach in about 30 countries. It is a pupil-centred curriculum that uses self-directed and experiential learning through programmes based on principles of respect, responsibility, and community, with exploration, discovery and play.
ELS has 265 children aged between 1 and 6-years-old. There are 10 teachers and 13 teacher assistants. Younger pupils' classes have about 18 children, while pre-Grade 1 has 25.
Paula Algar, head of the ELS said at the heart of her approach was to guide the children to achieve their best potential, adding that the Reddam House Ballito ELS allows experimentation, discussion, failure and support.
“ELS is rooted in the belief that every child has an insatiable thirst for knowledge, with a unique individual set of talents and interests that can be supported and developed. It is our job to tap into that potential and to teach our children how to think, not what to think,” she said.
Algar described the new school’s facilities in glowing terms, emphasising the importance of an environment inspired by curiosity and creativity.
“Every classroom overlooking the exciting playgrounds has big picture windows bathing the room in natural light. We encourage the children to be aware of their environment, to understand and appreciate what’s around them, and to learn from it. We also guide them to be responsible,” she said.
Algar further encouraged parents to ensure that when looking for a school for their children it is a school that is an extension of home.
“The feeling one gets when walking around a school for the first time, is a perfect guide to whether that school is the right one for your child. Consider what the school believes is the most important aspect to a child’s growth. If it is ensuring your child reaches their full potential in a nurturing and loving environment that’s designed to inspire and encourage them to explore and be brave, bold and true to themselves, then that is the school for your child and your family,” she said.