HEI Schools Lara Early Learning Centre, an early education centre based on an internationally renowned Finnish model of curriculum, is celebrating its first year of operations.
Located on Buckingham Street, Lara, HEI Schools Lara opened 9 December 2019 – the final piece of infrastructure for Bisinella’s Grand Lakes Estate.
Servicing families in the estate and the wider Lara area, the early education centre caters for children aged 12 weeks up to school age (six years of age).
The centre remained opened throughout the year, supporting essential workers and families in the local community through the COVID-19 lockdown period.
Based on the internationally renowned Finnish model of curriculum, HEI Schools is co-founded by the University of Helsinki and experienced educational and design experts.
Owned by Finnish Early Childhood Education (Australia) Pty Ltd, a private stakeholder group, HEI Schools Lara is HEI Schools first purpose-built early learning centre in Australia.
HEI Schools’ first Australian school was opened in February 2019, in a pre-existing space in the Melbourne suburb of Emerald.
In October 2020, Finnish Early Childhood Education (Australia) Pty Ltd opened a new centre, ILO Early Education Centre, in Norlane. Construction has also started on HEI Schools Waurn Ponds which is due to open in the third quarter of 2021.
HEI Schools Managing Director Dr Ken Yu, former university lecturer in Hong Kong, said the HEI Schools team was very excited to be celebrating the first anniversary of HEI Schools Lara.
“We are also very grateful for the support from the community, our partners, educators and families,” he said.
“The team is energetic and fueled with ideas to celebrate this milestone with the children and families, with Finnish culture as our theme. The children will have the opportunity to taste Finnish food, play Finnish games, and sing Finnish songs.”
Lisa Blackwell, Centre Director said HEI Schools was looking forward to the growth and further development of HEI Schools Lara.
“We have a great intake from the neighbourhood and a lot of families are from Grand Lakes Estate and surrounding areas. We are pleased to have a great neighbourhood and catchment of great families and are eager to reach out further to the communities around Grand Lakes Estate and better serve the community.”
Lisa said HEI Schools Lara had been very well received by the community from the beginning.
“We have nurtured a passionate and resilient team and we are very fortunate to have great support from the families and communities. Though the COVID-19 had hindered the centre's growth and intake, we stayed very close with the families and there was no drop in enrolment.”
While COVID-19 impacted HEI Schools Lara in many ways, the centre remained opened throughout the period and also offered a wide range of activities via social media. This included videos, songs, a virtual gallery, activities and ideas, strengthening their bond with parents.
“With the support from HEI headquarters we offered HEI Schools Home, an online resource for stay-at-home parents and caretakers with carefully crafted content to support children’s growth and help them learn. We received positive feedback from families on the extra support and program we offered online.”
Dr Yu said in the past 12 months, HEI Schools Lara had developed a solid student base via engaging the local community and online reach.
“We have also taken this down time to further develop our team and programs. The research and development efforts have enabled us to implement programs focused on a variety of topics including music, movement and the Finnish language. A multilingual program and a Kide Science program will be added to our curriculum shortly. We have gone through a lot and we are confident. We are well prepared for the upcoming opportunities.”
“We have more centres in the pipeline for the Geelong and Melbourne areas, Brisbane, Central Coast and Sydney and we hope to bring high quality Finnish education to more areas.”
Bisinella Director Richard Bisinella congratulated the team at HEI Schools Lara on reaching the milestone and supporting families in Grand Lakes Estate and the wider community during this challenging year.