We know children thrive when they feel a sense of belonging - we see it every day in our centres - and that’s why inclusion goes hand in hand with high quality practice at Goodstart. With over 660 centres across Australia, we have the opportunity to build the foundations of a more inclusive society by providing environments that welcome children and families from very diverse backgrounds. No matter each child’s or family’s circumstances, we want them to feel a sense of belonging at Goodstart Early Learning.
As early as two years old, many children are already well behind their peers in learning, development and wellbeing. Those who start behind tend to stay behind and we’re working to address that gap. By providing spaces and experiences where children and their families feel welcome, safe, nurtured and valued, we’re giving more children the opportunity to benefit from quality and inclusive early learning. And these principles are embedded in our purpose, for every child to have the best possible start in life.
Investing in inclusive learning
Our educators develop learning programs that cater for all children, in line with the Early Years Learning Framework and the National Quality Standard, both of which are underpinned by principles of inclusion. We complement these programs with unique, tailored social inclusion initiatives and support for families in communities right across Australia.
In 2020 alone, we’ve invested $10.8 million in social inclusion initiatives, which supported a range of universal and targeted initiatives across Goodstart, delivered by our dedicated social inclusion team.
Working with families and communities
Some children and families need more help than others to access quality early learning, and this is where our purpose really comes to life. By partnering with families, governments and many other service providers in local communities, we’re able to do more for the children who need it most, to get their best possible start in life.
Our programs are designed to deliver equitable learning opportunities to all children - providing extra support where it’s needed. We work with a range of agencies and services to support children who have lived through experiences that may mean they are more vulnerable than others, or who may have additional physical, social, developmental, or emotional needs. For example, our Intensive Individual Support Plans assist centre teams to include children with complex emotional and behavioural needs, putting into practice targeted interventions so these children can continue to participate in and benefit from quality early learning.
We also partner with governments to deliver early learning for children at risk of abuse or neglect. This year, we partnered with the Victorian government to support more than 100 additional children in child protection to access early learning. We also partnered with the Queensland Government to deliver early childhood services to vulnerable children in Redland City through the Redland Early Years Place, and with the Tasmanian Government to support vulnerable three year olds to access early learning.
Centre teams also work diligently to build trust with families from diverse backgrounds to encourage children’s participation, recognising their unique cultural values, and helping those families navigate systems and processes.
Supporting educators to support families
At the centre of inclusive practice is our people, and our centre teams have regular training to build their capability in supporting children and families who are vulnerable or require extra support. Team members participate in professional development in areas such as cultural inclusion, positive behaviour guidance, responding to domestic and family violence, understanding trauma and vulnerability, specialised care or care procedures, and training in working with children with additional needs such as autism, developmental delays and communication delays and disorders.
In addition, each centre has access to our Inclusion Helpdesk to ensure that no matter where they are in the country help is only a phone call away.
Support in our centres
Each of our centres supports their children and families in ways that are meaningful to them and their community. Some examples of initiatives might include:
- Emergent literacy programs
- Family library and/or toy library
- Communication and language programs
- Social and emotional development programs
- Sensori-motor development and vital movements
- Physical health and wellbeing programs
- Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander trainees or mentors
- Food relief and/or food pantries (eg, Foodbank, Second Bite, OzHarvest or referral to local food relief agency)
- Nutrition programs
- Provision of meals for children and families
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