Our first pre-school club opened in Bílina in 2006. It was a pilot project established to try out how effective this kind of support is in practice. Within the framework of our regional branch offices PIN currently organises 14 pre-school clubs in the Czech Republic which worked with about 330 children last year.
The clubs are intended for children growing up in disadvantaged areas, hostels, asylum homes or otherwise from the wrong side of the tracks. It targets children who do not attend nursery school for various different reasons, but these are the ones who need the pre-school preparation most urgently. Without it, they start their primary education unprepared. Because of the environment they have grown up in, they lag behind other children of their age. We know from experience that this handicap becomes more difficult to overcome as children grow older.
Pre-school clubs are attended by children from the age of three to the age of six. Ideally they stay for about a year so that we can help their parents with their transfer to ordinary nursery school. If the transfer is not possible, the clubs must prepare the children for successful entry to primary school. The clubs do not represent competition to ordinary nursery schools but, more precisely, they complement them.
Our aim is for pre-school clubs to represent sort of flow spaces where children can come, catch up with their curriculum and go on with their day. In the process of integrating children into the ordinary nursery schools we have been very successful with so-called adaptation days, when children from the clubs regularly visit classic nursery schools to see how things work there. Ideally, parents are also present at these events.
Our work in the pre-school clubs is conducted according to a Norwegian method of conceptual teaching called Grunnlaget (which means Foundation). The principle of Grunnlaget lies in teaching children basic concepts like colour, number or shape and only later learning to identify similarities and differences. It helps them to develop their language abilities and ways of thinking which are essential for the ability to learn. Newly acquired knowledge then become the basis for further study. We share our experiences with application of this teaching method with teachers and other pedagogical staff in special seminars and courses.