VEYA finalist series
The Sector > Quality > In The Field > VEYA Finalist Series: Continuity of Early Learning, Excellence in Educational Leadership

VEYA Finalist Series: Continuity of Early Learning, Excellence in Educational Leadership

by Freya Lucas

October 05, 2023

The Victorian Early Years Awards (VEYA) are an opportunity for the best and brightest Victorian early childhood and 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 Continuity of Early Learning and Emeritus Professor Collette Tayler Excellence in Educational Leadership Award categories.


Continuity of Early Learning


Finalist: Greater Dandenong Early Learning Alliance (ELA), Keysborough Primary School


The Greater Dandenong Early Learning Alliance (ELA) is a group of four schools and five kindergartens that employ a multi-disciplinary approach to improving language and literacy skills in 3–8-year-old children.


The project has a strong focus on continuity of learning in language and literacy development between kindergartens and schools, working in partnership with: 


  • Fair Education 
  • Schools Plus
  • Keysborough Primary School Kindergarten
  • Yarraman Oaks Primary School
  • Yarraman Oaks Primary School Kindergarten
  • Dandenong Primary School
  • Dandenong Primary School Kindergarten
  • Dandenong South Primary School
  • Dandenong South Primary School Kindergarten
  • Dandenong South Preschool.


Australian Early Development Census data indicated that a large proportion of children in Greater Dandenong were developmentally at risk or vulnerable in relation to language, cognitive skills and communication when starting school. Almost 48 per cent were assessed as at least 6 months behind in their literacy development compared to peers. The ELA project targets these critical areas.


ELA strengthened collaborative partnerships, relationships and engagement between educators and educational settings, families and communities through co-design. Teachers from participating kindergartens and schools collaborate to implement curriculum, monitor children’s developmental progress, reflect on their practices and critically examine the results. These early interventions have supported significant language growth for all the children in the program.


Finalist Carlton Learning Precinct, Gowrie Victoria 


Delivered in partnership with Carlton Primary School, Our Place and City of Melbourne, the Carlton Learning Precinct partnership is a place-based approach to supporting the education, health and development of children and families from disadvantaged communities in Carlton.


The Carlton Learning Precinct site is located within a pocket of significant disadvantage with most school families being migrants who experience a range of barriers to education. The program focuses on well-being, learning, and childhood development. Community activities and programs, such as ‘Leap into Learning’, guide children and families to transition from kindergarten to school.


The program has had great success with a shared strategic priority on the continuity of learning as well as practice-focused groups developing and implementing goals to support the ongoing engagement of children and families.


In addition to building partnerships across the precinct and relationships with the local community, Gowrie Victoria’s sessional kindergarten programs are fully enrolled, and there’s an annual increase in children transitioning from Gowrie Victoria to Carlton Primary School.


Finalist The Northern Schools Early Years K-6 Model, Northern Schools Early Years Cluster Inc. 


The Northern Schools Early Years Cluster Inc. is a community-based, not-for-profit organisation formed by primary school principals in Broadmeadows. It provides early years management for 15 kindergarten services, 13 of which are located on school sites. The organisation works predominantly with vibrant multicultural communities that experience some of the highest levels of vulnerability and disadvantage.


By operating as a kindergarten to Year 6 (K-6) model, Northern Schools Early Years Cluster Inc. supports collaboration between early childhood services and primary schools at every level, with the aim of providing continuity of learning for children and families as they transition from kindergarten to school.


Children participating in the model develop a sense of belonging and connectedness to the school environment, teachers, resources, programs and facilities, which embeds in them the confidence to move into a foundation classroom. The program also benefits from the co-location of kindergartens and early childhood services, which further supports the continuity of learning and the transition to school.


The Emeritus Professor Collette Tayler Excellence in Educational Leadership Award


This award recognises an educational leader, early childhood service, or an approved service provider that has led their educators and teachers to significantly improve the quality of their learning and teaching practices, with a focus on intentional teaching practices to achieve improved outcomes for Victorian children and their families.


Finalist Early Childhood Education Team, Early Childhood Management Services Inc (ECMS) 


Early Childhood Management Services Inc (ECMS) developed a specialist in-house coaching service for the early childhood workforce, working in partnership with The Alannah & Madeline Foundation, Early Childhood Intervention Services Melbourne City Mission, and Children’s Programs Brotherhood of St Laurence.


Since the inception of the initiative in 2019, they have modelled a way of being and doing through intentional deep listening, reflection and review.


ECMS, which operates over 60 early learning services, educates 6,239 children and employs 880 educators, has been on a three-year journey of learning about what makes the most impact on the space between leadership, pedagogy and practice. Their program has been refined throughout the journey to meet educators and leaders ‘where they are,’ and to foster curiosity and wonder while highlighting the importance of self-care and compassion.


Practice Coaches, who review and measure the impact of this intentional coaching approach, have noticed increased engagement, participation in reflective practice and shared learning across the ECMS workforce. By creating greater goal clarity and supporting the workforce to develop through this program, ECMS are supporting better learning outcomes for children.


Finalist Centre for Early Education, Ballarat Grammar 


With a strong commitment to fostering leadership and creating better outcomes for children, the Centre for Early Education (CEEd) at Ballarat Grammar engaged in a deep review of their existing professional learning architecture.


They identified the need to consolidate existing structures, optimise meaningful learning, and streamline practice and service operations. Recurring themes in their findings included the need to build educator capacity and develop a deeper understanding of inclusion for all children including children’s rights, self-regulation, First Nations culture, gender, and cultural identity.


As a result, CEEd invested further in fostering educational leaders who consider every element of children’s learning, ensuring that it is purposeful, engaging, and tailored to meet their unique ideas, needs and interests. Educator teams were given the opportunity to collaborate to develop research questions and undertake the educational design process of Progettazione, which is an act of throwing forward; a game of ping pong between educators and children to design programs with greater rigour and understanding.


Finalist Springvale Service for Children (SSC) Inc.


Springvale Service for Children (SSC) Inc. is an integrated family and children’s hub offering a suite of services from kindergartens, playgroups and childcare to information programs for parents, counselling services, and access to medical professionals. Their broad educational strokes reflect a strong commitment to collaborative and distributive leadership.


Distributive leadership was adopted at SSC to give staff autonomy to innovate, work towards common goals and bring their cultural backgrounds, experience and knowledge to their practices. It is exemplified in a photo project they organised titled ‘Moments’, which showcased untold, diverse narratives and shared community experiences. Photos from the project became a permanent part of their program, to encourage dialogue and foster a culture of inclusivity.


SSC prioritises reflective practice and ongoing professional learning and team champions utilise their strengths and interests to guide others. SSC has become a community resource that breaks down barriers and improves access to innovative, integrated programs for children and their families.


$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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