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Early learning centre in Lara is final piece in puzzle for national-award winning Grand Lakes Estate

Published: 10/03/2020

An early learning centre based on an internationally renowned Finnish model of curriculum has opened in Grand Lakes Estate, Lara.   

Servicing families in the estate and the wider Lara area, the HEI Schools Lara Early Learning Centre is the final piece of infrastructure for Bisinella Developments’ Grand Lakes Estate.  

Located on Buckingham Street, Lara, the early learning centre opened on December 9, 2019 and caters for children aged 12 weeks up to school age (six years of age).    

The Lara early learning centre is the HEI School’s first concept school in the Geelong region and the 21st in the world. HEI Schools are located around the world including in Europe, South America and Asia. 

Bisinella Director Richard Bisinella congratulated HEI Schools on the opening of the early learning centre in Grand Lakes Estate.   

“HEI Schools Lara Early Learning Centre is the last piece of infrastructure for Grand Lakes Estate which was built from 2008 to 2015 and has become a vibrant community of more than 2000 residents,” he said.   

The largest estate developed at the time in Lara, the 800 lot Grand Lakes Estate was built round a stunning 18 hectare expanse of lakes, wetlands and parkland laced by a network of boardwalks and walking and cycling trails.  

The estate also includes a community centre, the popular Millars Café, barbecue areas and a playground.  In 2016, Grand Lakes Estate won the urban development industry’s national award for environmental excellence, becoming the first residential estate in the Geelong region to win this award.  

The national award followed the estate taking top honours at the Urban Development Institute of Australia’s annual Victorian awards for excellence in 2015. Grand Lakes was judged the best residential estate and also won the award for environmental excellence.  

Julie Whitehead, Centre Director HEI Schools Lara, said the centre offered education and care along with a kindergarten program. In 2022 there will also be a three year program as part of the Victorian Government initiative.   

Ms Whitehead said the early learning school, owned by Finnish Early Childhood Education (Australia) PTY LTD, a private stakeholder group, was modelled on the Finnish curriculum.   

“HEI Schools, co-founded by the University of Helsinki and experienced educational and design experts, has gained world renowned recognition as a world leader in education and has been selected by global education non-profit HundrED 2020 as one of the 100 brightest innovative organisations,” she said. 

Finnish Early Childhood Education (Australia) PTY LTD holds the exclusive franchise licence of HEI Schools Finland to operate HEI Schools Early Learning Centres in Australia.  

Ms Whitehead said that she is “so happy that the HEI program is now available to our very own local families of the Grand Lakes Estate and surrounding Lara community. There is a number of key differences which makes HEI Schools Lara standout from other early learning centres,” she said. 

“Important key elements include our promotion on the holistic growth, learning, development and the well-being of the children. We also focus on providing a rich foundation for the progress of their emotional development, skills and competence as active learners.” 

“HEI Schools Lara values a child’s perspective, creativity and play, exploration, encouragement and social and emotional skills.” 

“One of the outstanding differences at HEI Schools Lara is each and every day the teacher is actively playing, talking, observing and engaged with your child,” Ms Whitehead said. 

“At HEI Schools Lara, the teacher sits on the floor and is an active learner along with your child.”  

“All of our classrooms are designed and created to be not over stimulating for the children. Everything has been especially designed to be no higher than window height, so that it is purposeful to the child and their learning.”  

To support the current social trend in being more grounded and acknowledging the importance in being present in the moment both the children and teachers take off their shoes before entering the classroom, to slow down the global trend of being in a hurry and constantly being over stimulated. 

“Instead we embrace the importance of being in the moment, this helps to recognise all of those small moments in time when a child learns a new skill, when they learn to accomplish a task or master a new strength. Those priceless moments are captured and shared with families this is best practice and high-quality early learning. These are all core elements to the HEI program.” 

Ms Whitehead said building relationships and developing a bond and trust between the teachers and the children was very important. 

“A significant component of the HEI Schools philosophy is recognising the importance that if child feel safe and secure then they will thrive in their learning. Also understanding and appreciating the value in having strong family communication and engagement is also essential to the HEI program.” 

Families are asked to participate in projects, parent interviews, creating individual learning goals for each child, family events, project evenings along with assisting with collecting resources such as recycled items, music, books etc.  

“By having strong and open communication you create the link between home and school. It helps support the child and how the child strengths and personal traits to be supported. 

 It’s about setting goals and a teaching plan with families about how we can best support the child’s learning and create a team approach to their learning and development.” 

HEI Schools’ concept supports children as active participants in their own learning. 

Ms Whitehead said the HEI Schools concept was about encouraging “children to have rights, have an identity and make choices about their learning”.  

“Our teaching program is more tailored to education and care which is where the name of HEI school has come from. Families want and expect the best education for their child and this type of care should begin on their first day of early learning.”  

“It’s such an amazing opportunity for families of Lara who respect and appreciate how important education and care can be.”  

For more information about HEI Schools Lara Early Learning Centre, visit