Kindy in the running for big award

By Riverine Herald

CHILDREN in Echuca are shining bright thanks to a kinder which is championing inclusion for local families.

Shine Bright Echuca South Community Kindergarten is nominated for this year’s HESTA early childhood education and care award.

The centre was nominated after implementing strategies to significantly improve inclusion for children and families that may otherwise face barriers to accessing early childhood education.

“It’s exciting. As a team we already consider it a win just for the recognition,” Echuca South Community Kindergarten nominated supervisor Kerri Watson said.

“It’s a great boost for team morale and it’s a great thing for the community.”

Kerri said the centre caters for about 100 families in the district and the most important development was understanding just what barriers families may face.

“That was the first step. We do a range of things but what underpins it is understanding those barriers,” she said.

“Every family is different and so it’s important to cater to those needs so that every family can have access to kinder.”

Kerri leads a team of eight educators and assistants who have created an inclusive, warm and accessible kindergarten through participation in local projects run by council to improve inclusion, as well as successfully applying for a grant for a pilot to test approaches to increasing literacy and parenting support.

“We’re a community-based service and recently our parent committee have upgraded our yard,” Kerri said.

“The parents and kids just love it – it’s the first thing everyone sees when they walk in and is a space that involves a lot of natural play and a connection to the environment for the children.”

The work of Echuca South Kindergarten staff resulted in a supported playgroup to be co-located within the service, a key stakeholder group, as well as an early years collective, a monthly networking and professional development opportunity where all people working with young people can come together to share knowledge.

Term meetings for goal setting with families and service providers for all families are now occurring. Also, a breakfast program, lunch, snack and fruit provision has been introduced.

“This is a very exciting award to be nominated for,” Shine Bright chief executive Suzi Sordan said.

“This award recognises the hard work and dedication of all staff at the Echuca South location. The nomination also highlights the increase in social complexities for the Echuca region.”

The kinder spaces, both indoor and out, reflect ESCK’s commitment to social inclusion, and their child centred and family oriented approaches with warm, accessible, culturally aware and inclusive play spaces.

“We are looking forward to August when finalists are announced” Ms Sordan said.

“The benefits to families and the community by our dedicated staff have been the biggest reward.”