Paisley Park is a boutique early learning centre situated in Leichhardt that boasts a home-like environment for just 24 children. Bek Lawrance is the Centre Director and we caught up recently.
Tell us about yourself
I am one of four children and grew up in the Macedon Ranges in Victoria, a beautiful picturesque part of the world, you get all the benefits of country life but you’re only 40 minutes from the CBD. Together our family raised many different animals, from cows, chicken and goats to our treasured family dogs. We also produced wine from our boutique winery, this was a great experience, and we were all involved in the process of picking, fermentation, pruning etc.
After working in hospitality solidly through my teenage years I decided to try something different and was offered a trial at a ‘friend of a friends’ childcare centre and that day changed my life! I loved every second of it and have not looked back since. After two solid years of study, I successfully attained a Diploma in Early Childhood Education, which was a major achievement for me. I am just about to enrol in a Bachelor’s degree, which takes my education further and I’m really excited by it.
My first experience with Paisley Park was at our centre in Gisborne, Victoria and after spending time working closely with Kat and Peter, the owners of Paisley Park, I was hooked! When the centre was sold to one of the big childcare franchises, I was devastated. I briefly stayed at the centre however when offered to work for Paisley Park as Centre Director I jumped at the chance and moved interstate within a week and a half. It’s rare to find owners that are so passionate and involved in the daily running’s of their business and Paisley Park is just that. Kat and Peter are contactable by parents and genuinely care about the families and children. It’s one of the only companies that truly focus on quality care and education of children not just collecting fees.
Tell us about your centre in Leichhardt and what makes it unique
Our boutique centre mimics a home environment, with a natural colour palette providing care for only 24 children. We have two separate curriculums that run side by side according to the children’s ages and stages of learning. Our programs are a mix of ‘child initiated’ experiences as well as ‘intentional teaching’. Each day we send home a daily reflection filled with stories and photos of the many exciting things the children have been up to during the day. These reflections are more than just a peek at what we do, they are the basis for our planning and are directly linked to the Early Years Learning Framework. This has proven to be a great way to keep busy parents in the loop, as they are emailed home and you can read them in your own time.
We are blessed to have Bella cook food for our children each day. Being committed to healthy eating, Bella visits the Marrickville markets on Sunday and sources all of our meat, fruit, eggs, dairy and vegetables. We do this as we are very focussed on keeping our food organic and locally sourced. We use minimal packaged foods which means making our own cereals, jams, sauces, stocks and dried fruits. By doing this, we are giving children the fuel for their growing bodies and we want to be sure the food we are providing are free of refined sugars, salt and hidden nasties, such as preservatives and colourings. We take a ‘paddock to plate’ approach with the children and feel it is vital that children know where their food comes from. We also grow our own vegetables in a small patch that the children access daily. This means they are, not only caring for their growth, but participating in harvesting and finally eating delicious home grown meals.
We also have a mini farm. Maybe that’s the country girl in me! We have a Mexican walking fish, two chickens, one rabbit, one guinea pig and three Gouldian Finches. The children help every morning to care for our animals and ensure that they have food and water. The concepts and learning that animals offer your children are endless, often leading them to a sense of care, empathy and respect towards other living beings. We watched our chickens hatch from eggs and adopted them. They have been an important addition to our family and we are looking forward to collecting their eggs when they start laying.
Do you follow a particular curriculum or mode of learning? What can families expect when attending Paisley Park Leichhardt campus?
At Paisley Park we value the time that we get to spend with these amazing children. We view them all as capable and competent beings with the capacity and ability to succeed. We use ceramic bowls and plates as well as glasses to drink from, and I think every parent would be surprised that we have had close to no breakages. Our weekly curriculum plans consist of interest based, intentional and spontaneous experiences, taken from children’s cues. We feel this approach best supports children’s naturally curious minds, encouraging their ideas and interests to evolve.
What are the core values of the centre and how do they reach the children and families?
Live to Belong – a core focus here at Paisley Park is a deep sense of community and belonging in our children educator and families.
Love to Be – childhood is such a wonderful time to be in the moment while in immersed in meaningful experiences that engage their curious minds
Learn to Become – we believe that children’s early experiences in life shape the types of adults they will become.
We have great partnerships with all of our families and our core values are communicated daily through our reflections, our conversations and interactions with our children and families.
When hiring staff, do you look for any particular qualities in your Early Educators?
I do. There is one key thing that I look for and that is a genuine level of passion, interest and understanding of children. We choose someone’s attitude over their ability, for you can teach someone anything! As long as they enjoy being with the children and I can see a level of love and passion for what they do, I will invest my time in mentoring and supporting their learning. There is nothing more rewarding then teaching someone a new skill and spending time to help them grow into the best educator they can be. Supporting Educators ‘on the job’ is something I feel lacks across the whole industry, but Kat comes highly qualified and therefore spends A LOT of time supporting our journeys individually and during group professional development days.
How would you describe your management style?
I am an inclusive, empathetic, fair and a strengths-focused leader. I genuinely love what I do and think that it is really important in this industry to be ‘hands on’ with educators, mentoring their daily practices and encouraging them to be reflective when making professional decisions.
What is the best part of your working day?
Spending time with the children and watching them grow. For instance, this week I watched one of the children start to crawl. We had watched her over the past few weeks becoming more mobile. I was sitting with her on the mat, she manoeuvred herself into a crawling position before moving around a metre and grinning from ear to ear! Seeing and being able to share this moment with her family is one of the reasons I do what I do. I love it, I wake up every morning and can’t wait to see their smiling faces when I walk in the door, how lucky am I to have a job I love.
For you, what is the best way to relax and unwind?
I love being with my friends and family and going out to new restaurants and discovering all the hidden treasures Sydney has to offer.
What is your all time favourite book or movie and why?
I have many favourite books but I must be honest, there will always be a special place in my heart for ‘A fish out of water’ by Helen Palmer Geisel. In my words it’s a classic children’s book. I have fond memories of my mum reading it to me when I was a child and I love to share this book with the children at the centre.
Favourite spots in the Inner West?
The community vibe is unbelievable, coming from a relatively small town I was astounded by the strong sense of community and togetherness I feel here on a daily basis. It’s hard to choose one spot, we are surrounded by beautiful restaurants and cafes! We do frequent Leaf Café & Co, which conveniently enough is just across the road at Marketplace in Leichhardt and they make a great coffee!
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