Miss Jessica Anton1, Jennie Cusiter1, Ellen McKeown1, Jenny Jesson2, Christine Skinner2, Sarina Leotta3, Debbie Winardi4, Cody Gordon5, Andrea Giunta6, Pio Macri7
1South Western Sydney Local Health District (SWSLHD) Speech Pathology Department, Liverpool, Australia, 2SWS Links to Early Learning, Uniting Burnside, Campbelltown, Australia, 3Facilitation Project: Fairfield, Liverpool, Bankstown, Canley Vale, Australia, 4Mission Australia – Miller Pathways (‘2168’ Communities for Children), Miller, Australia, 5Liverpool City Council, Liverpool, Australia, 6Ashcroft Schools as Community Centres Program, Ashcroft, Australia, 7Western Sydney Multicultural Resource Centre (MRC), Liverpool, Australia
Introduction: Children from low socioeconomic areas are known to be at higher risk for literacy failure at school. The development of complex oral language and early pre-literacy skills in preschool years is foundational for literacy learning. According to the 2018 Australian Early Development Census (AEDC), children in the Liverpool area were more developmentally vulnerable overall (23.5%) and in the areas of communication (10.7%) and language (6.9%) than the NSW state averages (19.9%, 8.0%, and 5.2% respectively). Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) services have a large role in closing this gap and ensuring children consolidate their language and communication skills. However, high variability in the teaching program and quality of ECEC services exists.
Method: The Liverpool AEDC working group developed a professional development resource to enhance the teaching practices of early educators in ECEC services. The resource contained language and pre-literacy teaching techniques, practical activities, and instructional videos, referencing the Early Years Learning Framework. The targets included vocabulary, print concepts, and phonological awareness. The pilot project recruited 25 ECEC services from the Liverpool area who were: rated as “meeting” or “working towards” on the National Quality Standards (NQS) and, located in a geographical area of significant socioeconomic disadvantage according to their locations Socio-Economic Indexes for Areas (SEIFA) ranking. The program was rolled out over 18-months, with an initial evaluation after the first two resources and a final educator experience and outcome survey at the conclusion of the program.
Results: Most educators reported changing their teaching and book reading practices because of the resource. Specifically, 100% of educators reported they learnt new vocabulary, language and play extension teaching techniques, 93% reported enhanced phonological awareness teaching practices, and 79% reported acquiring new skills to teach abstract thinking and print concepts.
Conclusion: Implications and future directions of this pilot study will be discussed.