South Otago Kindergartens has made a decision in its next step as an organisation, and is excited to share the news with the community.

Manager and senior teacher of South Otago Kindergartens Gillian Crawford explains the exciting new steps for South Otago Kindergartens by merging with Whanau Manaaki Kindergartens.

‘‘Over the past few years we have been looking at ways to grow and strengthen the kindergarten movement across Aotearoa.

‘‘We are passionate about what kindergarten has to offer our very youngest citizens and our vision is that every family get the opportunity to attend kindergarten with one nestled in every community.

‘‘To continue to grow we needed to build strength in numbers and not duplicate work that is done at the management level. We want our teachers to have the support systems in place so they can concentrate on what they do best — engaging our tamariki in great learning opportunities.

‘‘We have worked with Whanau Manaaki Kindergartens for several years to realise this dream and through this work it was very evident that our vision, values and quality of education and care for our children are closely aligned and all decisions come back to what is best for our children and their whanau.

‘‘We took this proposal to our communities and after in-depth consultation and two community meetings, our whanau voted unanimously to proceed with the merger.

‘‘This fills us with the absolute confidence that we are doing the right thing for our tamariki, whanau and teaching teams. So South Otago Kindergartens is now coming under the umbrella of He Whanau Manaaki Kindergartens, which is a Wellington-based kindergarten association. Whanau Manaaki means ‘‘caring family’’ and that is what we now have — an extended caring family.

‘‘I want to take this opportunity to personally thank you for the support and Manaakitanga showed over the past 70 years as South Otago Kindergartens as we grew from one to five kindergartens. We couldn’t have done this alone and I relied heavily on the entire educational community and support network to do the best by our tamariki and their whanau.

‘‘As a small organisation we have so much to be super proud of, as we grew from one to five kindergartens delivering a quality services to our rural communities.

‘‘We have been the first to adapt and change and listen to what our whanau need but also being mindful of what our other early childhood services have to offer.

‘‘Accessing early childhood education is about having a choice that meets your needs — but most importantly that all families in South Otago have the opportunity to participate in community-based, not-for-profit services and high-quality teaching and learning. That is our dream and we want to continue to thrive and grow to ensure all our small rural areas have the opportunity to attend kindergarten.

‘‘This opens up so many possibilities for our teachers and our families but for most part there will not be any change on the ground. Our tamariki will continue to attend the kindergarten they are in with the teachers they love and have formed relationships with.

‘‘The local office, with the support of the head office, will be very much in the background to support teachers to do what they do best every day.

‘‘We also want to highlight that coming up we will be holding a celebration to mark 70 years of South Otago Kindergartens and also handing over our Taonga to He Whanau Manaaki Kindergartens. This is to mark this momentous occasion and also the next step in our journey as in farewelling South Otago Kindergartens and welcoming in He Whanau Manaaki — a celebration of the official coming together of two like-minded organisations, who are very focused on strengthening the kindergarten movement to be around for another 100 years.’’

Play time . . . Kindergarten children (from left) Dion Butcher (3) and Archie Proctor (5) have some fun time outside. PHOTO: EVELYN THORN