The social reform aspect of Free Kindergartens is expected to extend well beyond the individual children, into their homes and the community at large. Every Free Kindergarten and playground is considered “a centre for social work in the homes surrounding it” and viewed as “a little centre of light and purity in a place that would be gloomy indeed without it”.
The Kindergarten Union also proposes that Free Kindergartens will teach children to love their King and country. Every Free Kindergarten has a photograph of the King, and a flag around which the children and teacher gather to sing the national anthem and swear an oath of allegiance – “I give my head, my heart, and my hands to my country”. Every game in Free Kindergartens is considered by supporters to be “a lesson in citizenship.”
Incorporating in 1912, the Kindergarten Union continues to establish Free Kindergartens throughout Sydney, and in 1921, the Union provides the preschool component in Australia’s first integrated service, a State Government funded, purpose-built centre at Woolloomooloo offering a range of education, care, and health services. The Woolloomooloo centre is hailed as an important contribution to ‘Nation Building’.
The Kindergarten Directors are seen to be of central importance, playing a critical role in setting a child’s moral compass.
“The Director of a Free Kindergarten or Playground has no mean office. She stands at the fountain head of character...the ideals she sets before the children, the habits she encourages, the truths she enforces, the very words she uses in her lessons to them, will remain inherent parts of their memories long after her personality is forgotten.”
In order to expand their reach, teacher training is considered an essential component of the Union’s work.
The content for As the Twig Bends: 120 Years of Early Childhood Education was researched and written by Frances Press and Sandie Wong.
© KU Children’s Services 2015.