West Wimmera Shire Council ready to take ECEC investigations to the next level
Victoria’s West Wimmera Shire Council has agreed to take an initial report, produced by Rachel Robinson from the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, and progress its findings to a new level, by conducting a detailed study to examine the feasibility of establishing a pilot education and care program (ECE) to support families and children in Edenhope.
The Council took an approach which mirrors ecological systems theory, made known to the early childhood education and care (ECEC) sector through the work of Urie Bronfenbrenner, in commissioning the initial study, keen to ensure that any findings in the space looked at the needs of the whole shire, placing ECEC in the context of broader child and family service requirements.
As well as using an ecological systems theory approach, the Council drew on relevant studies undertaken in the region by the Wimmera Development Association’s By Five Project, Council CEO David Bezuidenhout explained.
By Five draws on the knowledge of a broad range of professionals in early childhood education, care and health sectors and expertise of the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute.
Work undertaken by Dr Catherine Tischler et al from Federation University was also used by Council to influence decision making, with Dr Tischler’s research team confirming the importance of provision of childcare in ensuring the broader economic and social wellbeing of rural communities like West Wimmera.
Established links between ECEC and broader economic and social issues
Ms Robinson’s study further highlighted the established links between provision of childcare and much broader economic and social issues. Specifically her work notes that a lack of childcare provision in Edenhope has significantly contributed to workforce shortages in key community services including health and education. Mr Bezuidenhout said the council was “delighted” when Ms Robinson agreed to undertake the study in the region, shining a light on these challenges.
The study consulted widely across the shire, connecting with parents of prospective service users, schools, health care services, council staff and the broader community.
Edenhope emerged from the study as being a location with a deep need for additional childcare services, given there is currently only one family day care worker presently providing education and care.
The study also examined the range of service model options and associated funding, regulatory and workforce issues. As a result of the initial study, the Council will undertake a more detailed study to confirm the feasibility of establishing a long day care program, co-located with the Kindergarten in Edenhope.
Council will also begin to explore options with respect to the most suitable service provider and for extending and ensuring long term sustainability of daycare across the shire. Provision of out of school hours programs will also be investigated.
“We have a long way to go, but we will act as quickly as possible to find ways to ensure the adequate provision of childcare services throughout this shire,” Mr Bezuidenhout said in closing.