BY MALCOLM STEWART
The motto of Westville Pre-Primary School – “A long tradition of excellence in preschool education” – is a shining testament to the history and ethos of a beloved school that has become a beacon in the Westville community and a landmark in the greater Durban, KwaZulu-Natal area.
October 1953 saw the establishment of the Westville Nursery School Association in the green and leafy suburb of Westville. It took another four years, however, for the Westville Nursery School eventually to open its doors, in a garage of a home in Kings Avenue. Growing from such humble beginnings, the school has blossomed and thrived and will be celebrating both its Diamond Jubilee in 2017 as well as its joining the Independent Schools Association of Southern Africa (ISASA). Our initial student cohort numbered 14; today the school proudly provides the highest-quality foundation phase education to almost 140 eager little minds, across seven classes. The school’s future is certain to be a continuation of the excellence it has thus far developed, and its reputation as an educational institution will continue to grow from strength to strength.
The school’s home, in Ferndale Avenue, was generously bequeathed to it in 1960 and was officially opened in 1962 by the then principal of Natal University. Since finding its home, there have been a prodigious number of additions to the school’s facilities and campus. The last 12 years, in particular, have seen a rapid evolution in the school with the addition of new classrooms, extensions to existing buildings, the creation of new storerooms, the erection of a kitchen, the addition of a class for two-year-olds, the acquisition of new land and buildings for additional classes and classrooms, and the development of a large cycle track/mini sports field. An aftercare facility was introduced in 1992 and it has been lovingly administered by the same staff member for the past 24 years. Following changes in provincial education legislation, the school was officially renamed Westville Pre-Primary School in 1986 – the same year it acquired its well-known logo of three hand-drawn figures. The logo was drawn by the children of the school, one figure being drawn by a representative of each of the three age groups being taught at the time.
A balanced programme
Westville Pre-Primary School aims to cultivate socially adept and intellectually curious children who are equipped to confidently face the challenges of formal schooling. We also want to assist each of our children to build a foundation for a lifetime of creative learning.
The school focuses on a balanced programme of educational, creative and play activities, so that personal development is met on all levels. The curricula are designed to ensure ageappropriate cognitive skills, general knowledge and life skills. There are also opportunities for children to be exposed to music, drama, science, geography and mathematics.
The core focus is on the development of the whole child – emotionally, socially, cognitively, linguistically, physically and morally – with a determined emphasis on development through play. This enables each child to strive to reach their full potential, along with establishing a healthy self-esteem. While there is a reliance on a solid Christian ethos and an aim to promote Christian values and morals, Westville Pre-Primary School embraces all cultures and seeks to foster a deeper consideration of cultural diversity in modern South Africa.
Staff, governing body, family and alumni all involved
Westville Pre-Primary School is managed by a competent, experienced staff and a parent-elected governing body. This governing body meets on a regular basis to provide guidance on the financial, maintenance and general management of the school, in accordance with its constitution. The school’s staff and governing body diligently strive to inculcate a deep sense of family values among all those who are associated with the school, in whatever capacity that association may take.
The school’s staff are highly qualified and dedicated educators, who carry out their functions and duties with a keen sense of pride and a deeply ingrained care for the little ones entrusted to their charge each day. They are constantly searching for new and exciting ways to keep young minds interested in learning. The school’s strong appeal and its exemplary character are borne out by the fact that many of its staff members, both past and present, have taught at the school for more than 20 years. Most of the current staff have had children at the school, and one current staff member was a former pupil of the school. That so many of the school’s past pupils return to visit each year evidences the bond they have formed with the school, its staff and the happy memories they have forged. Friendships fostered at the school are often for a lifetime – between children, their parents and staff. Last year, 2016, saw the beginning of a new tradition at Westville Pre-Primary School: a reunion of matriculating former pupils of the school – a tradition that will be eagerly maintained in the years ahead.
Those taking part in the first reunion, shortly before writing their final matric exams, were nostalgic when reminded of their first steps in education. In addition to the daily responsibilities of refining young intellects, a vast number of events and activities are arranged around the family throughout the school year – from family fun days, grandparents’ day, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, home helpers’ day, dads and dinkies campouts, art expo evenings, school plays, Easter hat parades, letterland days to sports activities and cultural evenings – there is truly never a dull moment.
Westville Pre-Primary School grounds are rigorously maintained and cleaned on a daily basis by committed support staff, and its gardens have become the envy of the Westville community. The school boasts a vast and diverse array of large outdoor equipment and extensive jungle gyms, which are particularly enjoyed by the energetic children. The outside play areas also include a sandpit, a cycle track, mini sports field and covered play areas. The outside space is well maintained with grassed areas and tree-shaded spots for play. The children have access to two-wheeler bikes, tricycles, wagons, scooters and plastic push-bikes. There is also a large selection of outdoor equipment including soccer nets, netball hoops, swing ball, stilts, balancing equipment, mini gym equipment, hula hoops, bean bags and balls. In addition, there are a variety of sensopathic (an environment filled with materials that have different textures) and water play spaces available. The fully equipped Creative Room, in which painting, drawing, cutting and sticking facilities and playdough can be found, aimed at the development of fine motor skills, is used daily by eager little ones.
Puzzles and games abound for the development of cognitive functioning. Wooden blocks, construction toys and a fantasy area stimulate the creative processes and the imagination. Westville Pre-Primary School is designed so that children may choose where they wish to play during free time; in the garden, or in the creative, fantasy or cognitive areas. Free play is very important for stimulating imaginations and teaching children social skills and how to interact in group situations. Both indoor and outdoor activities are geared to encourage and develop creativity, social interaction and physical development.
Advancing a range of skills
Both Grade R classes have interactive whiteboards, thus maintaining pace with the rapid advancement in technology and facilitating the ready and easy dissemination of information and concepts and aiding in visual lessons. This also enables lessons to be more relevant, as information can be streamed in real time and assists with children becoming more comfortable with technology in the world at large. Westville Pre-Primary’s School Readiness Programme, aimed at equipping children to cope with Grade 1, includes a structured curriculum of mathematics, phonics, listening skills, prewriting and reading, and promotes the necessary fine and gross motor skills needed for “big school”. Musical concepts, singing, dancing and drama are heartily encouraged in each class to foster and entrench life skills.
Percussion instruments prove to be very popular. Westville Pre-Primary School arranges a number of wellconsidered themes and theme tables throughout the school year, which focus on issues from current events to sporting activities to seasons of the year. The themes help develop important life skills, social awareness and responsibilities. Westville Pre-Primary School offers a range of extramural activities and sports including rugby, soccer, ball skills, ballet, drums, and speech and drama. Whenever possible, outings are arranged within the greater Westville area, to familiarise the children with their community. These outings provide children with experiences of the real world, and enable them to learn how to deal with situations in a social context. Westville Pre-Primary School eagerly looks forward to the exciting new challenges it will face in 2017 and in the years ahead.
Malcolm Stewart was a parent at Westville Pre-Primary School.
Category: Autumn 2017