The program has achieved much more than anticipated!
The recent commitment by the Victorian Government to provide free kindergarten for all Victorian three and four‑year‑old children set about reducing financial barriers, however our research and evaluation strongly demonstrates that for the CaLD community significant barriers to early childhood education remain.
Greater Shepparton’s AEDC profile tells us 50.8%, or 1 in 2 of our CALD children are developmentally vulnerable in one or more domains by the time they commence school. With language and cultural barriers significantly hindering not only attendance at kinder, but enrolment as a starting point.
Little Learners provides bilingual support to reduce language, social and cultural barriers to education. By providing culturally sensitive language support to parents and children, we are able to enhance these children’s experience and development in 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. Evidence indicates that 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.
The third intake of our Little Learners program commenced this year, and we have seen a 360% increase in enrolments across the CALD community from 2020 – 2022.
The bilingual support workers serve as a critical bridge to better communication between the child and the educators; the educators and the families; and between non-English speaking and English-speaking children. The direct positive impact of a kinder program on a child’s learning is paramount, but another intended benefit from the program is to inform parents on the value of early years education, empower them to better navigate our education system, and build their confidence to overcome barriers to accessing other important community services and facilities.
We are thrilled with the results of the annual evaluation of Little Learners. To date the program has achieved much more than anticipated. The intended and unintended impacts are paving the way to afford more children and families from our CaLD community the same opportunity as their English-speaking counterparts.
To establish and deliver this place-based program we partnered with local organisations, Uniting and Greater Shepparton City Council and together we continue to review and refine the Little Learners program to support bilingual workers and families to get the best outcomes for the children.
Here is what one of the program partners had to say –
“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 of the children enrolled would not have ended up attending kinder at all.”
You can read more about our Little Learners program on the ‘Major Projects’ page.