Improving Child Development Outcomes by Connecting Early Learning and Care Services and Schools

Mrs Anne Nilsen1, Mrs Nicole  Hunt2, Mrs Christine Bewetz3, Ms Carrie-Anne Crannage4

1Ngala Community Services, Kwinana, Australia, 2Connecting Community for Kids, Kwinana, Australia, 3Leda Primary School, Kwinana, Australia, 4Goodstart Early Learning Parmelia, Kwinana, Australia

The 2018 Australian Early Development Census (AEDC) data demonstrated that, in Kwinana, Western Australia, every fifth child started school vulnerable on one or more AEDC domains[1]. Addressing these vulnerabilities as children transition between learning environments requires a longitudinal approach, emphasising early, and continuing, service provision. Information sharing, collaboration and strategic planning between service providers are pivotal to these aims[2]. The AEDC data informed consultations with stakeholders; including schools, early learning and care, community services and community members in Kwinana. The outcome was the founding of the Education, Care and Family Network (ECFN) – Kwinana.

This presentation focuses on the aims of the ECFN to improve practice and collaboration by building a community of trust, learning and practice, utilising a collective impact approach. The consultation process demonstrated widespread concern regarding cross-communication in the Kwinana early years’ education community. Common themes included an absence of collaboration and information transfer between service providers and stakeholders.

The network has now grown to over 113 members from 43 agencies across the community including ten local primary schools and 12 Early Learning and Care services, led by a six-member steering committee. The Department of Education works alongside the network to translate experiences and processes into policies and to create a model for other WA communities.

Working groups have collaborated on the creation of new resources unique to the needs of the Kwinana community. These address the insufficient availability of information on school enrolment processes, school readiness expectations, transition programs and community support services. This includes the development of an information booklet, a community transition statement and the trialling of collaborative school preparation programs.

AEDC data remains the reference point and stimulus for change, providing a crucial tool to inform network priorities, ensuring all children can participate and thrive throughout their learning journey.

 


Biography:

Anne Nilsen works for Ngala, a leading Parenting Organisation in Western Australia. Anne coordinates the Child and Parent Centre Calista, a program aiming to improve child development outcomes prior to school across all developmental domains, to achieve smooth transitions, sustained engagement and success with schooling. Anne holds a German Masters level Degree of Educational Sciences in the streams of Social work and Social Pedagogy. Having worked in community development and parenting support for the previous ten years, her current focus is fostering interagency collaboration and community engagement to ensure all children in Kwinana have the opportunity to be their best.

Nicole Hunt works for Connecting Community for Kids, a collective impact initiative in Kwinana. Nicole has over 20 years’ experience working in children’s services in various roles. In her role as Community Facilitator for the Kwinana community, Nicole is initiating community conversations and building relationships with families to have a clear understanding of their immediate needs and future aspirations. With a passion for working with children and families and a focus on the early years, Nicole is working solidly in the Kwinana community to empower parents, children and professionals to improve childhood outcomes. Nicole is committed to ensuring all children achieve their full potential and enjoy a healthy and safe, happy life.

Christine Bewetz is the Deputy Principal at Leda Primary School in Kwinana. Her main focus at the school is Early Childhood Education, which includes transition to school and early intervention programs. Christine is actively involved in a number of early childhood networks and initiatives, and has been a major driver of data driven change at the school. She holds a Masters of Education Leadership. Christine grew up in Kwinana, has worked in the area for the previous 12 years and is passionate about supporting all children to reach their full potential.