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Faith makes a preschool with a difference

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Individualised care, assessment and learning plans are part of the holistic culture at one of Sydney’s newest child care centres, that is open for all but particularly attractive for Catholics. PHOTO: Supplied

Religious education stars at this early childcare centre

A Sydney Catholic with a passion for helping young families to thrive has launched an early childhood centre like no other in the country.

Kay Ishak, founder of Alphabeta Retaval Preparatory in Belfield, says that it is a special place with a focus on working with families to provide personalised care and education for each child, including children with disabilities.

while early child care centres are increasingly becoming part of the Catholic education landscape, hers would have to be the only one that has a chapel with weekly Mass on site, and an innovative religious education curriculum.

Kay and her committed staff w
ill even keep extra meals (cooked fresh at the centre) in the freezer for families to take home for dinner who are going through a tough time or just seem frazzled after a very long day.

PHOTO: Supplied

I’ve launched and operated child care centres for years, but I have a passion for creating a strong connection with families, and where child care is extended to caring for the couples and families as well,” said Kay.

When a parent drops off a child and their bag here they also may drop off of bag of emotion, of heartache and a lot of pain, not necessarily because of anything major happening but there’s a lot going on for families these days. There is not always a lot of support available, grandparents may not be there to help any more or live a bit too far away for it to be practical for them to be involved on a regular basis. So we need to be that community for them, to support one another.

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The independent early childhood and long day care centre occupies the former premises of Retaval Belfield, a preparatory school of the Parents for Education (PARED) Foundation. While Alphabeta is a separate organisation, it shares similar values to PARED, including a commitment to supporting parents in the education of their children, and providing spiritually enriching environment.

Dr Anne-Marie Irwin, an adjunct lecturer at the University of Notre Dame Australia, Sydney, has been working with Kay and her staff to train them in her SALT (Scripture and Liturgy Teaching) approach to religious formation.

The SALT Approach fosters a personal encounter with God through Jesus,” said Dr Irwin. Following the Church’s liturgical year, the SALT Approach incorporates Scripture, Sacraments, Catholic teaching and prayer, considered throughout the liturgical seasons and major feasts of the Church Year. Children ponder deeply as they engage with the Catholic faith in all its dimensions, applying it to their own lives in age-appropriate ways.

Naoum says her son Sebastian, who is now in kindergarten, and her daughter Genevieve, who attends the centre, both love the place and the people. My husband Paul and I are both Catholics and we really appreciated things they reinforce that we do at home like praying before meals and acting respectfully in the chapel,” she said.

“Kay and the staff are absolutely amazing and go above and beyond to look after us. It’s super adorable to see the connection my children have with educators who have a role in their lives.” 

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