Breaking ground at the future site of St Nicholas Early Education Branxton
St Nicholas Early Education’s expansion in the Upper Hunter is set to take-off, with construction commencing in Branxton next week and other centres soon to follow.
A purpose built, state-of-the-art early education facility is set to open in Branxton in 2020, licensed to provide care and education for up to 104 children, between the ages up to five years.
Sean Scanlon, CEO at the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle, and Kerri Armstrong, General Operations Manager of St Nicholas Early Education, visited the green fields’ site in Station Street on 4 April 2020 for a sod-turning ceremony to mark the start of construction.
They were joined by Ray Bowen, the Diocese’s Head of Property, and Kurt Daley, Construction Manager, who’ve helped pave the way for the exciting development.
Mr Scanlon said the site, located directly opposite Rosary Park Primary School, was selected with parents in mind.
“We want to make the school drop-off and pick-up experience as easy as possible for parents and children. With the addition of an early education centre across the road from Rosary Park Primary School, parents with children of various ages can avoid the hassle of getting in and out of the car for multiple drops offs, saving precious time,” Mr Scanlon said.
Branxton will be the seventh early education centre operated by the Diocese in the Hunter region for St Nicholas Early Education. Other sites include Lochinvar, Chisholm, Singleton, Newcastle West, Raymond Terrace and Cardiff.
Future developments of St Nicholas Early Education centres to follow Branxton include Maitland, Muswellbrook, Gillieston Heights and Medowie.
“Branxton and the surrounding area has been identified as an area of extensive growth over the next five years. St Nicholas plans to provide early education services that will cater to the needs of the community now, and in the future. Our research indicates that by 2026, the area will experience a 41% population growth,” Mr Scanlon said.
Operating Monday-Friday, from 6.30am to 6.00pm, the Branxton-based early education centre will also provide local families greater flexibility.
“Many Branxton residents are employed in neighbouring areas. We expect St Nicholas’ extended operating hours, coupled with an increased provision of childcare in town, will be of huge benefit to locals when managing the demands of family and work life,” Mr Scanlon said.
In addition to supporting families in employment outside the township, the establishment of the centre is expected to increase employment opportunities locally.
“At capacity we expect the centre to employ approximately 22 educators, three trainees a cook and cleaners. St Nicholas Early Education promotes employment from the local community as a priority,” Mr Scanlon said.
Rosary Park Primary School and the local parish have been very supportive of the St Nicholas Early Education development, which will provide local families with the opportunity to enrol their children in a Catholic-inspired education in Branxton from ages up to the age of 12.
Ms Armstrong said St Nicholas Early Education has a proud history of working with the Catholic schools to deliver exciting learning opportunities for children enrolled at their centres.
“We’re looking forward to offering our Transition to School Program in collaboration with Rosary Park Primary School, for pre-school aged children, to support their educational pathway,” Ms Armstrong said.
As part of the program, children will take part in excursions to the neighbouring school, supporting children to gain the foundational skills that will help make the leap to the school environment a positive experience.
“St Nicholas educators implement a Reggio Emilia-inspired curriculum that is underpinned by a child-led, play-based approach to learning. This approach is complemented by our high ratios of educators to children, ensuring personalised care and support,” Ms Armstrong said.
Natalie Cortis, a mother to two children and new resident to the Branxton area, has embraced the St Nicholas Early Education development, having already registered interest to enrol her youngest child at the centre via the St Nicholas website.
“Being a new family to the area of Branxton, we are extremely excited to see big things happening, including the development of a brand new early education centre for our daughter,” Ms Curtis said.
“It is a bonus to have it located across the road from our school of choice, and where our daughter is currently enrolled in kindergarten. Mostly, we are excited St Nicks will be implementing a Transition to School Program, meaning our youngest daughter will be given the opportunity to visit her future primary school in a supportive and educational setting (and visit her big sister at the same time!).
“We just love the community vibe that Branxton allows our family to experience,” Ms Cortis said.
The Branxton early education service will provide children with a full-service food-menu including morning tea, lunch and afternoon tea as well as the provision of nappies and cot linens.
The centre is expected to take shape within months, with construction-company Artel Constructions arriving on site next week with machinery and a workforce of up to 70 people during construction.
St Nicholas Early Education will be taking interested families on tours of the centre from December 2019, and officially commence operations from January 2020.
Demand for the service is expected to be high so those interested in reserving a space for their child are encouraged to register their interest by visiting stnicholasmn.org.au
Hunter-based company SDA Architecture is the lead design consultant for the centre. They will be supported by Terras Landscape Architects who designed the outdoor play area.