WA announces new Early Years Initiative to improve development and learning

by Freya Lucas

February 20, 2020

Collaborate for Kids (CoLab) has recently announced that it will participate in an Early Years Initiative (EYI) aimed at improving the development and learning of children from conception to age four in WA.

 

The 10-year partnership between communities, government/s, researchers, philanthropy and non-government organisations was envisaged as a place-based approach that would leverage current investment, activities and services in target communities to identify practices that could best improve the development and learning of children.

 

EYI aims to empower communities to design, implement and evaluate new, evidence-based approaches to improve the health, learning and development of young children prior to school entry, addressing an important area of need by providing evidence on the effectiveness and efficiency of current and new models of early childhood service. 

 

Several of the programmatic evaluations on early childhood interventions used in Australia are based on research and work undertaken in the US and the UK, and rely on evidence gathered many decades ago. 

 

“There is very limited robust evidence that describes what works to support early childhood development in the contemporary Australian contexts, especially in rural and remote communities. The Early Years Initiative focuses on four intervention sites across rural, regional, remote and metro locations. This methodology allows for nuanced insight into how existing and new models function in these very different types of communities,” a CoLab spokesperson said. 

 

EYI is significant because it aims to fill the void of “very limited evidence” about what effective, community governance looks like for place-based initiatives or the elements that are essential to enable them to function. It will provide an opportunity for those involved to understand what approaches work in which contexts to facilitate authentic, community-led systems change. 

 

Each community selected for participation will have a Community Board established, which will be comprised of community members and Government-employed (or commissioned) service representatives. 

 

Community Boards will be responsible for consulting with and making decisions on behalf of their respective communities, and will be supported to actively collaborate with the State Government and to identify evidence-based solutions that might work in their community. 

 

The initiative will also place a large focus on ‘learning by doing’ with researchers, policy-makers and practitioners all working on the same challenge simultaneously, to accelerate the process by which research findings are translated into policy and practice.

 

CoLab for kids envisages that the findings from the evaluation of the EYI will provide communities across WA and more broadly with guidance on how to ensure their own change processes can be led and supported.

 

For parents and families, they expect that EYI will “provide deeper insights into how individual families with young children experience the early childhood service system, including the challenges they face and the opportunities they could benefit from.”

 

The EYI aligns with the State Government’s commitment to “a more efficient, collaborative, adaptable and outcomes-based public sector” and to delivering quality services to the community. 

 

“This innovative, cross-sectoral partnership will build a strong evidence base which can form the basis for empirically tested interventions that the Government can implement on a broader scale. In doing so, it will ensure more research findings are translated into policy and practice, and enhance a culture of innovation in public, community, research and philanthropic sectors,” a spokesperson said. 

 

Review and evaluation of the projects success will be conducted at the three, five and ten year intervals which CoLab anticipates will “provide valuable insight into how communities can be supported to develop and implement evidence-based solutions to improve early childhood outcomes.”

 

To learn more about the EYI, please see here

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