On the road to education

Spaces in early education centres across the region were sparse back in 2015 and parents were crying out for help.

Recognising their need and motivated by a desire to support family life, the Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle responded. In 2016, the Diocese opened two childcare centres under the banner of St Nicholas Early Education – one in the Newcastle CBD and the other in Singleton. The community response was overwhelmingly positive.

In the years since the Diocese took those first steps, St Nicholas has grown. The St Nicholas agency collectively provides education services spanning early education, out of school hours care (OOSH) and vocational education through our Pathways program.

The St Nicholas journey has, for the most part, been positive. We are proud to currently provide quality care to more than 6,000 children across 29 OOSH services and 11 early education centres, some in locations where there were previously no such options. Helping us to achieve this are more than 500 talented staff, including dozens of enthusiastic trainees. While not everything has been smooth sailing, particularly with the uncertainty of Covid, I am grateful for how far we have come and acknowledge there have been some difficulties. The strain of the COVID-19 pandemic caused uncertainty for many, and the transition of some OOSH services has been challenging.

Looking to the future, St Nicholas remains resolute in its commitment to supporting and partnering with families to nurture and inspire children and young people as they develop the skills to thrive at home, at school, and in society. With a desire to ensure sustained growth without compromising quality or ethos, the Diocese recently launched its St Nicholas Strategic Plan 2021- 2024. The agency’s strategic direction is grounded in our purpose and guided by four intersecting themes: community and partnerships, sustainability, growth, and quality.

Reflecting the Diocese’s continued commitment to the growth of St Nicholas and supporting families and children and students we recently appointed an Executive Director of St Nicholas, David Healy. David will oversee the implementation of the Strategic Plan across the three arms of the agency comprising St Nicholas Early Education, St Nicholas OOSH, and St Nicholas Pathways. David has extensive leadership experience and joins St Nicholas from Connecting Families, where for the past two years he was the Director of Child Protection & Family Services.

I am mindful that the generous support of our community underpins St Nicholas’ success. To the families who have entrusted us to care for your children; to the staff who have helped us to nurture and educate; to the students who have chosen to undertake vocational training in our centres; to the industry partners who have helped us enrich our service offerings; and, to the children themselves, whose energy continues to drive us to achieve more, thank you. We look forward to serving and partnering with you as we embark on the next chapter of the St Nicholas journey.

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Sean Scanlon

Sean Scanlon is the Chief Executive Officer of the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle.

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