VEYA Finalist Series: Improving Access and Supporting Parents
The Sector > Practice > VEYA Finalist Series: Improving Access and Supporting Parents

VEYA Finalist Series: Improving Access and Supporting Parents

by Freya Lucas

September 25, 2023

The Victorian Early Years Awards (VEYA) are an opportunity for the best and brightest of the Victorian early childhood sector, and those in allied professions, to be recognised for the exceptional contributions they make to the early childhood education and care (ECEC) sector.


Finalists were announced on Early Childhood Educators Day, 6 September, with the winners to be announced at the 2023 VEYA ceremony on 9 November 2023. 


Now in their 18th year, the awards are an opportunity to showcase the exceptional work being done in the Victorian ECEC sector, with finalists exemplifying the vital work happening in the ECEC sector. 


To ensure the finalists are all equally represented The Sector has elected to run a series of stories showcasing each finalist. 


The piece below highlights the finalists for the Improving Access and Participation in Early Learning, and Supporting Parents to Build their Capacity and Confidence categories.


Improving Access and Participation in Early Learning


Finalist: Fast-tracking 15 hours of kindergarten for children at risk Northern Schools Early Years Cluster Inc.


As part of a commitment to improving access and participation, the Northern Schools Early Years Cluster Inc. is already delivering 15-hours of free kindergarten for three-year-olds across each of its 15 kindergarten services. Most of the services are in Melbourne’s northern suburbs, in areas predominantly populated by vulnerable families with language backgrounds other than English.


Delivered in partnership with Dallas Brooks Primary School, Meadows Primary School, Glenroy Central Primary School, Glenroy West Primary School, Belle Vue Park Primary School, Broadmeadows Primary School, Fawkner Primary School, Bethal Primary School, Willowbank Primary School, North Melbourne Primary School, Holy Child Primary School and Merri-bek Primary School, local councils and the VSBA, the program addresses three key areas: 


  • Infrastructure 
  • Workforce 
  • Program development. 


Through strategic forward-planning, innovation, and determination, they undertook comprehensive facility upgrades, recruited 51 additional educators and support staff, and upskilled their existing workforce to deliver mixed-age programming.


This initiative has led to more children in Broadmeadows and the surrounding suburbs accessing three-year-old kindergarten. Educators report that the additional hours are having a positive impact on children commencing four-year-old kindergarten by improving their social skills and better preparing them to continue their learning.


Finalist: Rangeview Primary School Foundation Team Rangeview Primary School 


In 2022, the Foundation Team at Rangeview Primary School in Mitcham began a journey to devise a learning model that develops children’s reasoning, problem-solving skills, flexibility, creativity and resilience.


Informed by evidence-based approaches in early years structured inquiry, this new model provides a bespoke experiential learning environment where students investigate concepts in science, technology, literacy, mathematics, geography and art. The teachers worked collaboratively with the school’s leadership team to source professional learning materials and resources to develop the model, and establish new learning spaces in which it could be utilised.


After four months, teachers noted improvements in learning and engagement. Data showed a 132 per cent increase in letter recognition by the cohort of approximately 90 students. The less directive and more experiential learning environment had increased the level of engagement of students from vulnerable/disadvantaged backgrounds.


Supporting Parents to Build their Capacity and Confidence


Finalist: Imagination Magic Melton City Council 


Imagination Magic is a monthly performing arts and literacy program for babies, toddlers and pre-school children, along with their parents and caregivers. Melton City Council developed this program to support vulnerable members of the community, predominantly consisting of culturally and linguistically diverse residents, with many experiencing high levels of disadvantage.


Since the first performance was held in 2008, nearly 17,000 children and families have been supported by Imagination Magic. This free program supports the language development of children through a creative, stimulating experience filled with music and movement, including multicultural and indigenous performances. Participation in the program also builds the confidence and capability of parents to communicate effectively and thrive in their role as their children’s first educators and advocates.


The program also provides professionals with an opportunity to refer vulnerable families to appropriate services. Through these partnerships, the initiative builds the capacity of organisations to support positive outcomes for children.


Finalist: The HoPES team strengthening the Early Years Tweddle Child & Family Health Service


The Home Parenting Education and Support Program (HoPES), developed by Tweddle Child & Family Health Service in 2017, revolutionised in-home programs for parents by providing shorter, more intense home visiting interventions to support families with multiple vulnerabilities.


Through HoPES, staff offer support, coaching, play/interactive therapy, and modelling with a primary focus on the relationship between the infant and their primary caregiver. The innovative and adaptable nature of this program reduces the risk of families disengaging from the service.


Continual evaluation and quality improvement initiatives have resulted in a unique and effective program that centres on supports and interventions around the wellbeing of each infant. While being culturally responsive and catering for parental learning and literacy styles, the HoPES program focuses on improving parenting skills, eliminating abusive behaviours, and addressing risk factors for child maltreatment.


Finalist: Parents Learning Together at the Multicultural Hub Living Learning Pakenham Inc.


Delivered in partnership with Best Start Cardinia, Chisholm Skills & Jobs Centre and Mission Australia Family, Parents Learning Together is a supported playgroup delivered by the adult learning centre and multicultural hub at Living Learning Pakenham. 


The program works in partnership with each family, who are predominately from refugee backgrounds, and focuses on the role of the parents to support the growth and development of their children.


By taking a holistic approach, the playgroup supports parents to build confidence, skills and capacity to enhance the home learning environment for their children. This innovative playgroup model also provides a culturally safe and rich play environment where the children thrive on activities that support their cognitive, social and emotional development.


The response to the program has been extremely positive with high weekly participation rates leading to all participants registering their children for Early Start Kindergarten and completing maternal and child health service visits. Additionally, 80 per cent of the parents also participate in co-located programs and services, such as English language classes.


$15,000 in prize money for professional development funding


Award finalists were selected by a panel of judges following a thorough application and shortlisting process.


Winners receive grants of $15,000 towards professional development or to further develop their program or initiative.


A separate Minister’s Award winner will be selected by the Minister for Early Childhood and Pre-Prep Ingrid Stitt from finalists across all categories as a special commendation.


For more information on the awards, refer to the Victorian Early Years Awards website.

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