As we approach this wonderful festive seasonal break, I would like to take a moment to reflect on the privilege ECMS has had in sharing this last year of care and education with you and your children. It’s a very special thing to be able to be involved in all the things your child has learned and developed in the past 12 months, and support and witness the lasting friendships and happy memories they have made. It’s amazing how much a child can achieve in just one year.
I wanted to end the year by sharing some of what we have achieved in our work with children and families this year.
Advocating for Victorian children and families
We’ve continued to advocate to State and Federal Government for changes to early childhood funding and policies that will improve outcomes for all children and families, but especially for the most vulnerable families.
We were keen and delighted to be invited to work with the State Government on its revolutionary Early Childhood Reform Plan, launched earlier this year. This plan will provide new and valuable resources that will support children to get the best possible opportunities before they start school. It includes options to engage with speech pathologists, specialist children’s services, community and family support services and more. There will also be funding to support new community playgroups that will help build and enrich communities around early childhood services.
Leading the way with quality early education and care
We’re proud that our kindergartens and childcare centres continue to surpass both state and national averages for quality under the Federal Government’s assessment and ratings process.
All our services assessed and rated this year met or exceeded the Government’s benchmarks, with many improving since their last rating.
Our services are particularly strong in their educational program and practice, staffing, relationships with children and collaborative partnerships with families and communities.
Successfully embedding Storypark in our services
A growing number of our services have introduced the Storypark e-portfolio this year. Storypark enables educators to share insights into children’s learning throughout the day with parents and allows parents to contribute to and comment on what their child is doing.
Our Storypark survey found parents love receiving individual learning stories as it keeps them up-to-date with their child’s learning and development. They enjoy receiving photos and stories and being able to share this with extended family members, especially grandparents.
Most of our families are now avid users of Storypark, and we will be using it across even more of our services from next year.
Extending our focus on children’s rights and child safety
Educating our staff about child safety has been an ongoing priority for ECMS. This year, we’ve extended this focus to educating children and families about child safety, too.
In May, our staff were trained in how to equip children with the skills, language and knowledge to help them contribute to their own safety. In October, we ran a series of parenting seminars on how to talk to children about personal safety. We have also recently embarked upon an exciting project to teach children about their rights. This has seen some of our early learning and care centres coming together to explore children’s rights, share resources and plan their approach to teaching children about rights. Next year we'll pilot a children’s rights curriculum in a handful of our services. Giving children a voice and empowering them to be strong and confident in the world around them is a critical life skill that will set them up for school and into the future.
Developing a STEM curriculum
We've been doing some exciting explorations into STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) in early childhood this year. We've looked at some of the important skills children develop in early childhood that set them up for future learning. Problem-solving, sequencing, pattern recognition, experimenting with elements such as water and sand, doing projects on the weather, backyard bird audits, the environment, language and many more projects. Next year six of our services will trial a STEM curriculum and assess its impact on children's learning.
Creating practice principles to guide our work
The Educational Leaders from across our services recently came together to develop seven practice principles to guide our work each day. In the new year, every ECMS service will embed these principles in their philosophies and practice.
1. We acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land on which we work, play and live.
2. Building relationships and knowing children and families is central to our work.
3. Families and educators come together to share their histories, knowledge, ideas, culture and aspirations in raising and educating children.
4. We are all learners. We recognise and value individual and different ways of learning.
5. Our educational programs foster investigation, inquiry, exploration, curiosity and creativity.
6. We support children to develop persistence and problem-solving skills, resilience, agency, self-regulation and friendships.
7. We listen to children’s voices and celebrate successes and achievements to instil a sense of pride and empowerment.
Whether your child is moving to the next room or age group in 2018 or progressing to school, I wish your family all the best for the exciting journey ahead of you. Thank you for choosing ECMS to contribute to your child’s early learning experience. It’s been a privilege working with you.
Judith Slocombe - ECMS CEO