3B Key transition points in the schooling years
Pathways for Early Learning and Development – Exploring Family Support with Children at the Centre
In 2016, after reviewing its investment in family support activities, the Department of Education partnered with the Department of Communities, Child Safety and Disability Services to support vulnerable children and families by embedding an early childhood learning and development focus within established intensive family support services.
The pilot ran for 18 months and the service model was developed to integrate an early childhood educator into existing intensive family support services for families experiencing multiple and complex vulnerabilities. This approach focused on the learning and development of children aged from birth to five years of age, while at the same time addressing the family’s broader needs in order to achieve sustained and positive change and smooth confident transitions.
The mode and intensity of service provision was tailored to local context and specific client group needs. Programs incorporated the following key aspects, which have since been identified as the critical elements (collectively) to achieving outcomes:
- evidence-based early learning and development programs
- qualified early childhood educator working alongside human service staff
- low staff to child ratio
- a combination of group (i.e. supported playgroup) and individual (i.e. home visiting) early learning support
- facilitated activities to ensure parents’ active and regular involvement
- supported access to child health specialists, especially speech pathologists and occupational therapists
- appropriate resources (space, transport and learning and nutritional resources and supplies)
- established relationships and alignment with local early childhood education and care centres and schools.
An independent evaluation was commissioned to measure the success of the pilot and identified improvements in early development across all measured domains for children including:
- 45% improvement in social/behavioural issues
- 40% improvement in speech/language delays
- 31% improvement in emotional wellbeing
- 37% improvement in child safety concerns.
At conclusion, 85% of children engaged in the pilot were at an ‘adequate or better’ level in terms of school transition readiness.
The success of the pilot led to the launch of the Pathways for Early Learning and Development (PELD) initiative, which commenced in January 2018 in 12 priority locations across Queensland.
PELD is an integrated, cross-disciplinary and multi-generation service model in which evidence-based early learning and development programs are embedded within existing targeted and intensive family support services. This approach focuses on the child, while at the same time addressing broader family needs (e.g. housing, unemployment, domestic and family violence, drug and alcohol dependency and mental health) to better support sustained change. PELD focuses on supporting the ready child to transition into education with supportive family making informed and positive choices.
Iona Tait is a Human Services professional who has worked in leadership roles across local and state government as well as the not for profit sector for over fifteen years. Iona started her professional career as a youth development officer and holds a Bachelor degree in Social Science in the field of Human Services. Iona is a manager in the Early Childhood and Community Engagement division of the Queensland Department of Education, she has previously held leadership roles in the Employment and Indigenous Initiatives division of the Department as well as in community based not for profit organisations. Iona is passionate about relationship based and culturally inspired practice, good governance and constituent participation.