Goodstart expands EChO network for vulnerable children
Goodstart Early Learning has expanded its network of Enhancing Children’s Outcomes (EChO) centres from 30 to 40 communities to enhance learning, development and wellbeing outcomes for vulnerable children – and plans to grow the network to 50 centres over the next five years.
EChO centres are in communities where there are a high number of children who are developmentally vulnerable, and offer enhanced services over and above the universal base of education and care. Goodstart said that these services include:
- additional teachers
- child and family practitioners
- speech pathologists
- occupational therapists
- social inclusion co-ordinators
- visits from service providers
- food rescue and re-distribution
- referral and support in the local community
- scholarships for eligible children.
Services in each EChO centre differ to meet the individual and unique needs of the community.
Social Inclusion National Lead Penny Markham said EChO centres represented a unique service model to address vulnerability.
“We know that children living in disadvantaged circumstances benefit the most from quality early learning, giving them the best chance to achieve learning, development and wellbeing outcomes they need for school and life,” Ms Markham said.
Goodstart Harristown in the regional city of Toowoomba became an EChO centre in June 2016. Employees received specialist training in areas such as speech pathology and occupational therapy and on-the-job coaching on how to apply these disciplines in practical ways to support children’s individual needs.
Early Childhood Teacher Jane Whitney said that in the kindergarten program last year, 30 of the 40 children were classed as at-risk.
“We work really hard to improve the outcomes of these children by supporting their language development and managing their emotions even before they get to kindergarten,” Ms Whitney said.
“We found by focusing this work on the pre-kindergarten children they are better prepared for kindergarten which means we can spend more time focussing on getting them ready to be successful at school.”