Kindergarten Kekec Grosuplje
Kindergarten Kekec Grosuplje operates in Municipality of Grosuplje, which lies south-east of the capital Ljubljana. Municipality of Grosuplje occupies 134 km2, where 20.000 inhabitants live. Kindergarten was established in 1953 by the Municipality of Grosuplje and is a public kindergarten. Education and other professional staff of public and private kindergartens that hold a concession adhere to the Kindergarten Curriculum, that is, the essential programme document adopted in 1999 that specifies pre-school education as part of the education system.
Kindergarten opperates in 9 units, where approximately 720 children aged 1-6 are enrolled. Kindergarten has 89 education staff employed. More than a half of staff (50) has qualification for a preschool teacher’s assistant (an upper secondary vocational qualification in preschool education, ISCED level 3). Most of them are older workers who need additional professional support in their work. The reason for employing more preschool teacher assistants than preschool teachers lies in norms for the design of groups, which are defined in the Kindergarten Act and in the Rules on standards to conduct pre-school education activities.
Hence also children with different special needs and with a deficit in the language-related field are enrolled in kindergarten, also speech therapist, two special pedagogues and assistant for a child with special needs are employed. In this school year, they work with 65 children. The kindergarten includes also children who have, due to their health condition prescribed diet(s) from the paediatrician. Currently 58 different diet meals are prepared in the Kindergarten’s kitchen.
In the area of Kindergarten there are also six Romani settlements from which pre-school children traditionally were not included in pre-school programs. In recent years, the Kindergarten has intensified its efforts to create a partnership with Romani parents and begun with outreach activities in the Romani settlement. In this context, the Kindergarten regularly cooperates with a Roma assistant working in a neighboring elementary school.
Part of the Kindergarten’s vision and its’ central strategic goal is professional development of all employees. This includes training of staff in all fields of expertise, mentoring trainees and students, peer observations, participation in seminars and other forms of professional development. For 17 years, Kindergarten has been involved in the Step by Step Network for changing quality (leaded by Educational Research Institute (ERI), Slovenian partner in VALUE project), which goal is continuous care for developing reflective practices of professional staff.
Kindergarten’s aim within the project VALUE is developing a supportive environment for all professionals. This will be done by developing professional learning communities (PLC) and by training of leaders of PLCs. There are 10 PLC leaders and each leads its’ own PLC (5-10 members). ERI’s researchers (Slovenian partner in VALUE project) support PLCs leaders in development of competences (knowledge, practices, values) for successful work in this context. In PLCs, professionals research their practice in the field of creativity and reflect their work by the support of International Step by Step Association (ISSA) principles of quality pedagogy. By this, they develop a shared understanding about quality ECEC, they reflect their own practice and build supportive environments for their work. Each PLC leader has also her own mentor (school counselors, director, deputy directors), who support PLC leaders in planning, implementing and reflecting a PLC meeting.
As stated in the Kindergarten, by participating in the VALUE project, all employees will be provided with new challenges for the implementation of professional practice and with new incentives for working in the group of children and beyond. The creation of PLCs, in which all staff is involved, will allow for deeper links between them and understanding of the practices of each other.