Centre FAQs

Will my child be safe, happy and properly cared for?

Our promise to you is to provide your child with an exceptional education within a safe and nurturing environment which will enable them to thrive. We do this by only employing the very best staff – highly trained and fully registered teachers who have a passion for early childhood teaching – and providing well-equipped centres which meet children’s care and educational needs.

Our centres are small with a friendly feel and a family-focus. We keep our child-teacher ratios well within the Ministry of Education’s guidelines so we can be sure we’re attending to each child’s individual needs and responding to their particular interests and learning style. Each child has a key teacher who will keep an extra special eye on them, help them settle in and update their profile book so you will know exactly what activities your child has been enjoying.

As an organisation we have the benefit of experience and, in true pioneering spirit, have been leading the way in early childhood education in Dunedin for more than forty years. We meet all Ministry of Education requirements and The Education Review Office has some really good things to say about us.

Isn’t my child too young to be looked after by someone else?

No matter what age your child joins us at Pioneers we have the people and facilities to look after their unique needs. It’s our pleasure to welcome children from birth through to five years old, caring for them and nurturing their first steps on an exciting educational journey. Our teachers are all highly trained and fully registered and, most importantly, love working with young children.

We are very family-focused and our teachers will work alongside your family to provide education and care that meets the needs of your child as well as your whanau. A special feature of our programmes is the role of the key teacher. This teacher is assigned to your family on enrolment to establish a close relationship with your child and your family.

Key teachers provide as much intimate care for their key children as possible such as meeting and sharing information as children arrive, changing their nappies, taking key children to bed and soothing them to sleep, holding and feeding infants their bottles and solids. If children are in the centre before or after the key teacher arrives/finishes they have a secondary teacher who takes over responsibility. Responsive teachers become in-tune with the speech or gestures of infants and toddlers. Nursery teachers notice, recognise and respond in several ways, using encouraging body language and an attentive presence.

Will my child have to get used to lots of different caregivers?

Right from day one your child will have a key teacher who will be there to help them settle in at Pioneers and support them throughout their time with us. You will also have regular contact with the key teacher to help us establish a close relationship with your family and best meet your child’s individual needs.

We purposefully keep our child-teacher ratios well within the Ministry of Education’s guidelines and with plenty of staff on hand we can ensure that each child’s individual needs are recognised and attended to. However, our centres are also quite small, with a maximum of 40 children, so every face soon becomes a familiar one.

How does the settling in period work?

Your child’s key teacher will be there to provide support, ensuring that your child can quickly feel relaxed and at home at Pioneers. Our aim is to facilitate a relaxed and fun environment in which children can safely challenge themselves, explore and discover new things and learn important life skills.

Will my child stay in/maintain a routine?

Yes, we aim to work in partnership with parents to meet each child’s individual care requirements and where ever possible will try to maintain your home routine for things like nap time.

What if my child doesn’t like the food you provide or has allergies?

We are lucky to have qualified cooks employed at our centres to provide nutritious snacks and meals throughout the day. We actively promote healthy eating and are proud to have been awarded the Healthy Heart Award. Our cooks are very skilful at creating delicious foods which appeal to young tastebuds. While we encourage children to try new things (and often seeing what a playmate is trying will do the trick) they would never be asked to eat something they really disliked.

If your child has food allergies we will work with you to cater for their specific needs.

Is there lots of time for free play and fun or is it all about formal learning?

We’re all about having fun! We know that children learn so much through play and our programme provides a good balance between free play and more structured learning.

All of our centres provide programmes which are rich in interesting and varied experiences and provide plenty of opportunity for children to learn and develop at their own pace.

Our approach to teaching and learning is one of utmost respect for the child. Inspired by the work of Emmi Pikler, we believe it is essential to provide an environment which allows children to discover as much as possible on their own. A child who is able to achieve things through their own experience and discovery acquires an entirely different kind of knowledge than a child who is offered ready-made solutions.

Will I be missing out on all the important milestones?

We have lots of ways to keep you up to date with all the fun and learning your child will experience at Pioneers. Your child’s key teacher will fill you in through informal catch ups at drop off and pick up times and will also keep a special profile book for your child. This will become a fabulous family memento that your child will love looking back on including photos, stories and their artwork. Storypark is an online e-portfolio used within all of our centres which allows teachers to send you updates, photos and videos while they work with your child so you can see, learn and experience more of your child's day.

How will I know things are OK?

We’ll keep in touch via your child’s key teacher, through their profile book and Storypark and, of course, you are always welcome to call into our centres for a visit. If you have any questions or concerns please do not hesitate to get in touch as soon as possible.



How will my child be helped to settle in to the nursery?

We use a gradual settling in process with support from a key teacher to welcome you and your child to our nursery and to help you feel at home as quickly as possible. We understand that the transition from home to centre can be a stressful time for the whole family.  We are here to support you and have the knowledge and expertise to make this transition happen smoothly.

Before your child joins us at the nursery you will make a few visits together to see how it all works and to get used to this new environment. You can visit as often as you feel your child may need but we do require a minimum of three visits with you (parent) here. When you and your child feel comfortable, they will have one half hour visit by themselves so that they learn that you are going to leave but that you are also coming back. This is followed by two one and a half hour visits without you here. There is no cost for these visits.

You will meet your child’s key teacher at your very first visit and they will be on hand to give your little one lots of cuddles and to begin to develop a secure relationship through care moments and play. Your key teacher will work closely with your whanau and will play an important role throughout your child’s time at the nursery.

Once your child has developed a secure relationship with their key teacher this allows them to explore the centre in their own time and at their own pace.  From here they can begin to develop relationships with other teachers and children in the centre.

What is the ratio of teachers to children?

We have quality ratios here at the nursery: one teacher to four children. This ratio is maintained during teachers’ breaks and planning time. This ratio is above the Ministry of Education requirements of one to five.

Our team is made up of seven specialised and experienced infant and toddler teachers who have been at the nursery for between three and nine years. Five of our teachers are fully trained and registered early childhood teachers and two are completing their final year of their teaching degree.

What do I need to bring for my child?

We ask that you supply nappies (cloth nappies are welcome), formula and a bottle, and a change of named clothing for you child. We will provide everything else!

What about nutrition?

A qualified cook provides a variety of seasonal healthy home cooked meals from the finest puree to whole foods. We cater to all dietary requirements, e.g. vegetarian, vegan, gluten free, dairy free, religious requirements, allergies.

All of the food at the nursery is included in the fees, along with cows’ milk when your child is old enough to have it.

We support breastfeeding mothers by providing a comfortable area to feed. We also provide space to store breast milk.

Will my child be able to stay in their own routine?

Your child’s key teacher will follow your child’s individual routine; we understand that each child has varied routines around sleeping, eating and being. We welcome dummies, blankets and any other comfort items that are important to your child. Each child will have their own cot for the time they are with us at the nursery.

Is there lots of free play and fun or is it all about formal learning?

Having fun is definitely a big part of life here at the nursery! We also understand that infants and toddlers are very spontaneous and we embrace this.

Learning happens at the child’s own pace where they can explore, make discoveries and build relationships with other children within a warm, supportive environment. Your child’s key teacher will follow your child’s interests and extend on their learning.

The teachers at the nursery are passionate about music, outdoors and messy play so there’s always something new to enjoy and learn.

How will I know things are ok?

We’ll work closely with your whanau to ensure your child always receives the best care and we’ll keep in contact through a variety of channels.

We use communication notebooks for children under one about their routines. Our teachers will build an e-portfolio of your child’s learning and development while here at the nursery so you’ll have a fantastic record of this special time.

Teachers are always available for a one on one conversation about your child’s day at the nursery and we welcome phone calls throughout the day. We have an open door policy and you are welcome to visit us at the nursery anytime.