The Little Learners Project aims to remove barriers to enable children from our Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CaLD) communities to access early education.
Children from a refugee and asylum seeker background have often experienced significant displacement and trauma, all of which impacts significantly on their early development. The extensive body of research and evidence indicates early engagement of vulnerable children in early childhood education services has a substantial impact on a child’s cognitive, emotional and social development, and that two years of kindergarten impacts positively on a child’s long term development and academic outcomes.
Our AEDC profile tells us that 50.8% of CALD children, or 1 in 2 in our community, are developmentally vulnerable in one or more domains by the time they commence school. It is posited that these children face both financial and cultural barriers to education development.
A recent change in State Government policy to grant free kindergarten for all 3-year-old children has reduced financial barriers. However, other barriers including language and cultural barriers remain.
This program provides bilingual support to reduce language, social and cultural barriers to education. By providing culturally sensitive language support to parents and children, we aim to enhance CaLD children’s experience and development in early education.
The bilingual support workers serve as a critical bridge to improving communication between the child and the educators; the educators and the families; and between non-English speaking and English-speaking children.
An intended consequence of these relationships is also to improve the parents’ knowledge of the education system, making for an easier transition onto school.
The third intake in 2023 to Little Learners saw 23 children attending, attendance has more than doubled since 2019. Children attend one of two of Shepparton children’s centres, Colliver Road and Leslie Gribble. The children attend 5 hours kinder a week. Read the 2022 Little Learners End of Year Report here.
Place-based programs like Little Learners align with our vision of “inclusive, interconnected communities where everybody has equal opportunity to participate”. Our project partnerships with Uniting Goulburn North East and Greater Shepparton City Council are critical in delivering on an inclusive and culturally appropriate response to the needs of CaLD children.
This is a three-year program made possible by multi-year grants from the Ross Trust and the Besen Family Foundation.
‘It would be impossible for me to enrol my child without [Bilingual Support Worker]. I wouldn’t have known about the program, or how to enrol. I wouldn’t have been able to find out or understand any of the information. I would not have been able to fill the form online either. I don’t know how to do any of these things. When you can’t read or use a computer it is not possible to do what is needed.’ - Parent
‘I am not educated and I don’t have any experience about kinder or education. It wasn’t until I talked with [Bilingual Support Worker], and learned about how kinder would help my child, that I felt excited and wanted to enrol him.’ - Parent
‘I was absolutely gobsmacked at the success rate of families turning up for their appointments. I could not believe it! I have experience booking translators for families for hospital appointments and was used to having a 40% hit rate of families turning up. I was amazed that, overtime, every family booked for an enrolment support session, aside from the one who was overseas, turned up…Having bilingual workers involved in the enrolment process is absolutely essential to the engagement of non-English speaking families and cannot be overstated. Without their input, half the children enrolled would not have ended up attending kinder at all.’ - Program Partner
‘‘I was concerned about my daughter because she was alone at home, just her and me, so I decided to enrol my child. It is much easier for my daughter because [Bilingual Support Worker] is there too and can help her to communicate and learn from the teacher.’- Parent
‘My child is clever. It is good that my child can go to kinder for 3 days now. It is better for her. She is happier and she likes kinder because her cousin is there in the 4-year-old group, which makes her more confident. She likes being able to talk to [Bilingual Support Worker] and ask her for help.’ - Parent
* The Most Significant Change stories are used in GSF evaluation of the program