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Reflections Magazine : Issue 50
15 REFLECTIONS • GOWRIE AUSTRALIA • AUTUMN 2013 - ISSUE 50 Buninyong Preschool's early childhood education program focuses on building children's and families' strengths, and responds to their specific needs or vulnerabilities. The preschool offers high staff-child ratios, with four educators working with up to 25 children in each session. The program employs a four year trained Early Childhood Teacher, a Diploma qualified educator and an education and care qualified Aboriginal Education Officer, who has recently attained her Certificate III. A fourth staff member is employed through the Supporting Children with Additional Needs (SCAN) funding scheme. An important aspect of the preschool's educational program is its emphasis on the use of intentional teaching strategies that build children's self-confidence, resilience and emotional competencies. Using programs such as 'You Can Do It!', 'KidsMatter', and 'PALS Social Skills Program', educators work with individual children and their families to help children to feel that they belong, and to help them to develop skills and confidence to build and negotiate relationships with others. Early hurdles for the Buninyong Preschool included sharing a space with the after school care program. The preschool now has its own facility on the school grounds and the Advancing Practice Award $10,000 development grant will be used to further landscape the preschool's outdoor play areas. Another early difficulty involved engaging with families within the community. For some families cost was not the only barrier to accessing early childhood education, there were issues related to the cultural relevance and safety of the programs on offer. Initially, the Schools as Community Centre (SACC) facilitator was instrumental in linking families using other SACC services with the preschool. To help ensure the cultural safety of the program, the preschool employs an Aboriginal Education Officer, Jodie Wright. Jodie is a local Wiradjuri woman who knows many families in the community and has built strong collaborative relationships with the families using the preschool. Her knowledge of the community, and her relationships with local families, has enabled the preschool to promote families' sense of belonging to the service, and to provide a curriculum that is respectful of, and responsive to, families' cultural needs. For example, at times some families need to be away from Dubbo to spend time with extended family members. As this can mean that children may be away from the preschool for extended periods of time, the service ensures that these children's enrolments are kept open for when they return. Louise also praises the "amazing job" that the preschool's teacher, Jemima Quilty does, often in challenging circumstances. Jemima, who accompanied Louise to accept the 'Advancing Practice Award' in Perth last year, works closely with all staff and families to develop and implement a high quality, culturally relevant program for all of the children attending the preschool. The preschool's innovative approach to working with children and families facing multiple challenges or disadvantage, involves the provision of integrated services. Through links with local health and early intervention agencies, the preschool assists families to access a range of early intervention and health services including referrals for health and development assessments, early intervention, occupational and speech therapy, immunisation programs and dental, hearing and vision screenings. All of these services are delivered using a coordinated approach that reduces the barriers that families living in complex circumstances often face in obtaining the support their children need. Through this 'hub service' model, Buninyong Preschool is able to provide families with access to early education, health and intervention, thereby increasing opportunities for many children to begin school with a strong foundation of health and wellbeing. Buninyong Preschool hopes to expand in the future by seeking funding to extend the premises, and the service will continue to engage with families, the local Aboriginal community and the school community to sustain the program's relevance to the interests and needs of local children and their families. References: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2011). Headline Indicators for children's health, development and wellbeing 2011. Retrieved January 14, 2013, from: http://acecqa.gov.au/storage/Headline%20Indicators%202011.pdf
Reflections Magazine Issue 51