Goodstart shares insights about building connections and confidence in COVID-19

Goodstart shares insights about building connections and confidence in COVID-19

by Freya Lucas

April 26, 2022

Australia’s largest early childhood education and care (ECEC) provider, Goodstart Early Learning has shared insights about the way in which it maintained connection with children and families during COVID-19 as part of a sector wide study. 

 

The Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, in partnership with the Ian Potter Foundation and the REEaCh Hub at the Melbourne Graduate School of Education, has been working with early learning centres to document and share their innovations to keep families and educators connected during COVID-19.

 

One of the centres involved in the project is Goodstart Early Learning Boronia, in Victoria. Goodstart Boronia has a strong sense of family and community. Children join the group based on referrals from other families, and connections are made and maintained through family fun days and celebrations.

 

With the advent of COVID-19, in person connection opportunities were limited and as a result team members, families and children were isolated, out of their comfort zone, and without their support network.

 

It quickly became clear that daily activities had to change in order to keep children, families and educators connected to their community base, and to look after their wellbeing, Centre Director Kelly Mills explained. 

 

“The lockdown left families with no contact or engagement with our educators – or with other parents for that matter,” she said. 

 

“People felt isolated and out of control. We realised that we needed to try and bring a constant presence and some consistency to families amongst all the uncertainty.”

 

At the heart of the approach was daily connections with families, because parents and carers needed to trust and know that the educators were still there and still cared, she added. 

 

The team made building and relationships their priority, making use of every opportunity to keep in touch, including:

 

  • Regular phone calls and check-ins to update families on their child’s progress, which also acted as a source of adult interaction for isolated parents and carers.
  • Front door greetings kept families up-to-date on the progress of their children, and connected to their educators. Kinder staff now walk children out at the end of the day so they can chat to families. Families have said the enthusiasm of the educators greeting them and their children at the front door is welcoming and reassuring.
  • Learning packs were created to complete at home, which mirrored the activity happening in the centre. The packs became an extension of what was occurring at Kinder, and children could share their work either via Zoom or on their return to the centre.
  • Online channels like Zoom and Goodstart’s Storypark platform were used to share information and photos. 

 

Maria Fong, Senior Project Officer at the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, has been heartened by the project and the impact early learning centres have had during the pandemic.

 

“When it comes to supporting families, a lot of the heavy lifting has been done by long day care providers”, she said. 

 

ECT Teresa Venables tackles mental health head on

 

Boronia Early Childhood Teacher (ECT) Teresa Venables was particularly concerned with the mental health of the children and families in her care during the height of the pandemic.

 

“We had a lot of children in Kinder with anxiety, so we formed small groups and talked about how they were feeling,” she said.

 

“We made sure we had places available for children experiencing anxiety, or with diagnosed disorders.”

 

As the lockdowns and restrictions have eased, the stronger relationships have remained. By focusing on connection and engagement, and supporting families through uncertainty, centres have built a sense of comfort, safety and security for families, children and educators. And parents and carers are appreciative.

 

“We are so grateful they were very rational and measured. We had complete confidence when our daughter returned to the centre. I have so much confidence in what they do and how they do it,” one thankful parent said.

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