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 2023 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.
‘As you know English language is not my first language and it is very challenging for me
to communicate with educators. However, with the help of the bilingual worker, I now understand some of the rules and expectations kinder has…Kinder program not only helps my daughter but also it makes me very happy and relieved to see my daughter enjoy her childhood and knowing that she going to have a great time there and looked after there – is the best feeling for me.’ [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 have noticed a lot of changes since my daughter started kinder. Prior to that, my daughter only spoke in her first language but now she speaks English very clearly - as well as her first language. My daughter was isolated and did not know the concept of sharing and playing with other children and so on. After attending 3-year-old kinder, she started speaking English very well, became social and happy...she is now outspoken, able to express her feelings in English, no longer withdrawn. Kinder helped her to be self-confident.’ [Parent]
‘My daughter has made a lot of progress in so many ways. She has got many friends in kinder, socializes, participating in different activities. She never used to talk in English prior going to kinder but now she speaks English at home and kinder. Now she talks about her days to me and her siblings which is beautiful. It makes me very happy to hear my daughter communicating in English language.’ [Parent]
‘For me the most significant change would be being independent. My daughter lacked on self-confidence, socialising, play with others, sharing, always wanted me to be around and do things for her. However, once she started kinder, she has improved a lot and has developed confidence to do things on her own. She enjoys her independence and making good choices for herself, being able to communicate in English with teachers and other children.’ [Parent]
* The Most Significant Change stories are used in GSF evaluation of the program