We’ve just concluded our annual mid-year review, and are thrilled with the progress we’ve made toward our new five-year strategic plan, Expect Great Things.

We congratulate our team of early childhood professionals and support staff who have embraced change, both in our sector and organisation.

In the first half of 2016, our teams adapted to increased staff-to-child ratios, and as a result, children are enjoying an even deeper engagement with their educators. We have embraced the new Child Safe Standards, with training for all staff and the appointment of Child Safety Advisors. This is just the beginning as we seek to lead the sector and set new standards as a child-safe organisation.

We have contributed to a new Victorian Early Years Learning and Development Framework, while advocating to our Federal Government for greater investment and reform nationally with the future Jobs for Families Child Care Package. On the local front we were delighted to lead in shaping the new Early Years Management Policy recently released by the Victoria Government. This Policy affirms our role in managing and leading high-quality services in partnership with parents and local communities. It comes at a time when our successful pilot of a new model for parent group engagement nears completion.

In recent years ECMS has developed a number of contemporary, integrated centre-based service models. Seeing our newest children’s centres – Hurstbridge Hub and Oakhill – doing so well this year is pleasing. We’ve recently conducted a review of our service profile aligned to our strategic plan and have identified that centre-based services provide ECMS with maximum opportunity to engage and develop its growing, professional workforce while also providing children and families with direct access to ‘wrap-around’ services that optimise health, wellbeing and developmental outcomes.

Moving forward, we’re sharpening our focus and directing our resources towards centre-based service models. For this reason, we have decided to cease the coordination of family daycare at the end of this year. We are also working with councils in Maribyrnong and Hobsons Bay as Altona West Kindergarten and Empire Early Learning Centre are planned to close at the end of this year. These services have been integral parts of the community, and we look forward to celebrating their history and contribution in the coming months. We are working closely with our staff, families and family daycare educators to support smooth transitions for all involved.

Being progressive in our response to the needs of vulnerable children and families is a high priority in our plan. This year, we lead a pilot outreach family support program in Brimbank and Melton in partnership with both councils, Caroline Chisholm and the Department of Education and Training (DET). This pilot is building bridges between child protection, family support and universal early childhood education and care to increase the participation of vulnerable and disadvantaged children in universal early learning services. One month into the project a number of children who otherwise would have missed out are now engaged in early learning.

Thanks to all the families who contributed to our recent parent survey. We look forward to receiving the results next month and sharing our findings and action plans with you.

With all this progress, we are mindful that there is still more to do, as Shonkoff eloquently points out, and that requires continuous improvement and innovation. We take the lead from the children around us, like yours, who are naturally creative and experimental every day.

Warm regards,