Meet Hillcrest Christian College

The Gold Coast is a hub for several of South East Queensland’s most outstanding schools and educational institutions...

Katie Matheson
Katie Matheson

We caught up with Hillcrest Christian College's Early Childhood Teacher and Educational Leader, Katie Matheson to gain some insight into Hillcrest Christian College and find out all you need to know about enrolling in Pre-prep/Prep at Hillcrest Christian College.

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What’s unique about your school?

Our Junior Learning Community (JLC) sets a student's educational foundation in a safe and caring environment that focuses on their social, emotional, physical and academic growth. Every child is a unique creation with the potential to reach their personal aspirations and make a difference in society using their God-given gifts and abilities.

 

Our supportive Junior Learning Community ensures that every student who joins Hillcrest joins a welcoming and inclusive learning environment. We believe if a student feels secure and valued, inspired and challenged in their learning, and comfortable in their environment, they will ultimately succeed. Our aim is to promote a culture of excellence, where all students can achieve their full potential; where effort is rewarded, and success is celebrated.

 

We provide an innovative education and outstanding teachers to help students develop intellectual strength. Our dedicated staff get to know every student and identify talent, while providing support where required. All staff are committed Christians with a heart to lead our students on their unique academic, spiritual and cocurricular journeys, and see their role as an opportunity to use their gifts and talents to fulfil their God-given purpose.

 

The Prep – Year 2 castle precinct provides an innovative and unique learning experience for our junior students. This innovative and exciting Precinct was completed in 2018 and consists of twelve state-of-the-art learning spaces in the design of a castle and includes vibrant and flexible learning spaces that encompass both indoor and outdoor areas. Retractable doors break out spaces, modern furniture, quiet zones, and interactive play equipment, all create an environment that enhances curiosity and sparks creativity. The classroom design fosters an atmosphere where students feel confident and safe, and eager to engage in open-ended learning experiences.

 

The JLC provides a supportive learning environment, with a balanced curriculum and cocurricular program. Along with core learning areas of English, Maths, Science, HASS, Technologies, the Arts and Christian Living, our students from Prep - Year 6 have specialised Music, Art, French (Years 3-6), Design and Technology and Physical Education lessons. Students can also engage in additional cocurricular programs including Chess, Speech and Drama, and various other interest areas

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What’s your prep/pre-prep orientation like? What activities are in place to help my child and family settle into school?

There is an orientation morning for Prep towards the end of the school year to give incoming Prep students a chance to meet their teacher and see their classroom. While the children are in their classrooms the parents are invited to a morning tea to meet one another and the school leadership.

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How does your school communicate with families?

The College communicates with families in a variety of ways.

Email is the College’s main form of communication. We also have a College Newsletter, updates sent out by class teachers and leadership, Facebook groups for each year level for parents to connect and ask questions and there is a College App with notifications sent out.

 

Once your child is in the Junior Learning Community there are regular Parent Teacher meetings (interviews) scheduled throughout the year.  Teachers are always available to meet with parents at another planned time should they have any concerns they wish to discuss throughout the year.

How can I help prepare my child for ‘big school’? Are there particular types of knowledge, skills or abilities children are expected to have prior to starting at your school?

Starting Prep involves a number of changes for children and families. This include differences between Kindergarten and the more formal setting of Prep. When children begin formal schooling some of the experiences, they may face changes are:

  • Physical Environment: the size of the playground, classroom and buildings, the location and types of toilets, the number of other children and teachers.
  • Rules and Routines: more structured times for attending class, eating and going to the toilet, rules for different places such as the classroom and playground, lining up.
  • Relationships: meeting new children and adults, responding to children of different ages, leaving Kindy educators, getting to know a range of teachers for different subjects and from different grades.
  • Learning: more formal learning experiences, structured times and set tasks, increasing independence.

Throughout your child’s early years, they have been learning and developing a range of skills. Every child is different, and each have their own strengths that can help them manage change when starting Prep.

The activities below encompass many of the learning and developmental skills gained throughout your child’s kindergarten year. By continuing on with these activities at home your child will practice these skills in multiple settings and with multiple people, enabling them to call on these skills as they transition to formal schooling.

 

Social and Emotional Skills

Teach friendship skills: Teach your child ways to introduce themselves to new children, join play with others and be friendly and co-operative.  Talk to your child about what being a good friend means (e.g. sharing, taking turns, and using kind words).

Encourage sharing and taking turns: Playing with your child, following their lead and having fun together will help to develop further maturity in their social skills. Playing simple board games, card games or computer games with children helps them to develop sharing and turn taking skills. It also helps children to cope with disappointment when they do not always win.

Invite children to play together: Arranging for your child to get together with other children helps them to establish friendships and practise their social skills. Providing positive guidance and helping to structure activities can be helpful when supporting children to establish new friendships.

Involve your child in conversations: Talking with your child and involving them in conversations can help them to learn the rules of communication such as waiting for a turn, expressing ideas and listening without interrupting.

Help your child to manage their emotions: Emotional skills include being able to recognise, express, understand and manage a wide range of feelings. You can promote your child’s emotional development by spending time with them and being warm and responsive to their needs. Encouraging your child to take ownership of any disputes or challenges with minimal support by prompting them with ideas to problem solve. Talk to your child about what is happening and help them to describe and label the emotions they are feeling.

Further information on supporting your child’s emotional regulation can be found at http://drkaylenehenderson.com/free-resources/.

Get to know other families in the school community: Arranging to meet with other families in the school community prior to starting school will help develop relationships and a sense of connectedness to the school community.

Your child’s year level Facebook page is a great place to make these initial connections, and to organise meet-ups.

 

Independence Skills

Encourage self-help skills: These skills include your child dressing and undressing themselves, eating from their lunch box, going to the toilet and asking for help. Encouraging your child to develop these skills will give them lots of confidence in being able to do things for themselves.

Promote a sense of responsibility: Encouraging your child to take responsibility for small tasks (e.g. setting the table for dinner, putting their clothes in the wash basket) will help them feel useful and build their self-confidence. In Kindy children take care of their own belongings such as putting their lunchboxes and drink bottles away, making sure their shoes and socks are put in their bags or on the shoe rack, dressing themselves (shoes, socks, jumpers), ensuring they have their hat and put it back in their school bags when they are not using them. To help with the transition to Prep it would be helpful for children to be encouraged to carrying their own school bags, take care of their belongings and dressing themselves.

Involve your child in making choices: Providing your child with simple choices will give them practice for decisions they may need to make at school. Start with giving two choices such as the red or the blue shirt when getting dressed, or an apple or banana for a snack. This will give them the confidence to make bigger decisions.

Develop your child’s understanding of social rules: Talk to your child about how different settings have different rules and expectations. This will help them adjust to some new rules they will need to remember and follow at school.

Mealtimes: One of the biggest changes children find in Prep is meal times. In Kindy children are encouraged to have certain foods at different times of the day. For example fruit and dairy products for morning tea, sandwiches for lunch and any “sometimes” foods for afternoon tea. In Prep we find that children often struggle to manage their foods and can often eat all their food in one sitting leaving little to no food for lunch time. To help your child in is transition it may be helpful to label your child’s food from morning tea and lunch and communicate with your child in the morning what they can have for each mealtime.

Learning Skills

Introduce early literacy and numeracy skills: These include your child recognising numbers and letters and counting and writing their own name. Whilst it is not an expectation that children are able to recognise all their letters and numbers before Prep it is helpful for children to understand the difference between numbers and letters. To help introduce the concept of counting and letter recognition through everyday activities. For example, count the number of toys of the floor, point to words when reading aloud to your child, sing songs, say nursery rhymes and foster an enjoyment of listening to stories. Remember, children will get plenty of practice reading and writing once they start school.

Encourage your child to focus on an activity: Encourage your child to sit and focus on an activity for a period of time. Your child may benefit from you sitting with them or checking back at regular intervals to provide positive encouragement and feedback as they concentrate and enjoy themselves. For example, you might say, “wow, look at the size of the house you built! Could we add a fence or garden?”

Encourage listening skills Reading books or listening to CD or DVD recordings of stories is a great way to help develop your child’s listening skills. Asking questions about the story can also support your child’s understanding and communication skills. For example, ask questions about what has happened, what might happen next, or how characters might be feeling, To promote curiosity, you might ask, “I wonder what would happen if…?”

A free online resource for recorded stories can be found at http://www.storylineonline.net/

A range of oral language games can also assist to develop listening such as Chinese whispers, picture dictation, and Simon says.

Help your child to follow instructions: Start by giving your child one instruction to follow and walk with them to do it if necessary. You can then build up to giving your child two-step instructions. Children often have difficulty remembering more than two or three instructions at a time so it is important to gradually introduce further steps.

Encourage hand-eye coordination: Using scissors and glue, drawing, building with blocks, helping with cooking, and throwing and watching balls can help children to learn and practise hand-eye coordination, which is important as they learn to read and write.

Promote a hand-on approach to learning: Learning occurs through everyday play and experiences. Providing opportunities to experience new places, such as going to the library to look for books, visiting places in the community and following your child’s interests, will show them that learning is fun. Pretend play encourages their imagination and creative skills. Loose parts, writing materials and dress-ups can help to support pretend play.

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How structured is the classroom environment in Prep/Pre-prep? What is expected of children in a typical day?

We take a balanced approach to learning in the early years. We use explicit instruction times to guide and model new ideas and use play, craft times and provocations to reinforce and cement knowledge. Towards the end of the year, we have more structured Literacy activities such as independent writing to gradually prepare them for the Grade 1 environment. Children are expected to engage and participate in the activities that support early letter/sound recognition, the development of oral language, number names and quantities and a variety of Science and HASS concepts. We believe children learn through hands-on experiences and this is particularly evident in our Numeracy lessons.

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Is there homework in Pre-Prep/Prep and what does this involve?

There is much debate over the value of homework. Research has shown that formal homework tasks at a junior school level have no measurable benefits. It is acknowledged that there are self-management skills learnt where students take responsibility for managing their homework activities. Many families however, experience unnecessary daily stress from homework as they navigate extremely busy after-school and after-work schedules. Taking this into account, classes across the JLC generally don’t enforce homework, however, encourage reading daily and family discussion and learning at home through general tasks or hobbies.

 

The value of nightly reading and fostering a love of literature in young children is acknowledged, and this continues to be a priority of the homework routine; ultimately we want our children to become lifelong lovers of reading. Practising multiplication tables, vital to achieve automaticity, and efficiency in solving more complex mathematical tasks, and learning memory verses may also be regular learning activities. However, the remainder of homework tasks will be offered as enrichment learning opportunities; activities that ideally students will be self-motivated to complete, and will extend students’ passions and love for learning through engaging in hands-on activities. Some examples from various year levels include: learning a second language, starting a new hobby, writing a letter or ringing a relative that they haven’t spoken to in a while, participating in after-school sport or another discipline, creating an artwork to display at school, serving at church, cooking a meal for their family, or writing a letter to the editor of the local newspaper about a community concern.

 

By engaging in these real-life tasks, students are provided with opportunities to apply their learning and develop their passions in a meaningful context. At times, students in the upper grades may also be required to finish work or projects that they haven’t been able to finish in class time, and your support with this is appreciated. For students who are looking to practise their skills they also have access to Mathletics, Literacy Planet and Study Ladder if they choose. These programs can be tailored to individual needs at a support or extension level.

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What are some of the teaching and learning strategies used by class teachers to engage students requiring additional support?

Our Prep classes have full-time aides to assist the class teacher with any additional needs. Our aides work with students needing academic support, physical support in the Prep environment and social and emotional coaching. The goal is to include these students in the overall outcome of a child’s Prep year. The classroom teachers are trained in early years pedagogy and work to develop a child holistically. Diagnosing and supporting families through social, intellectual and developmental concerns are part of the Prep teacher’s role. They work closely with the learning support team at Hillcrest.

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Are there any considerations I need to make when packing a lunchbox (nuts, eggs etc.)?

In order to keep all of our students safe, we ask kindly that nuts are avoided in lunchboxes as we do often have Prep children with severe allergies. We also ask that parents provide healthy food items for their children as the Prep day is a busy one. It’s a big transition to school and children need sustaining foods to help them thrive in a 5 day school week.

When do I need to enrol? How do I secure a position for my child? What is the enrolment process?

Before you commence an application, we highly recommend you explore our facilities and classroom learning environment by joining an Executive College Tour, guided by a Hillcrest Christian College Executive. A tour gives you the opportunity to meet one of our College Leaders, see our College’s facilities firsthand, and hear about the exciting future initiatives.

 

To ensure your child's enrolment you can apply by visiting https://www.hillcrest.qld.edu.au/enrolment/submit-enrolment-application and clicking the application button at the bottom of the page. We aim to make the applicant process as easy as possible and have created an online guide to assist you.

 

For any questions about the enrolment process, please contact our College Registrar, Emily Savery, by phoning 07 5593 4226 or emailing registrar@hillcrest.qld.edu.au.

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