Investing In Our Youth and the Department of Education have collaborated to support the Linking Education and Families (LEAF) program, developed by South Bunbury Kindergarten Teacher, Fiona Farren. The project was funded through the National Community Crime Prevention Program in 2007 and supported by Lotterywest in six pilot schools in Bunbury in 2008 and in Harvey Primary School in 2008 and 2009.
The Linking Education and Families (LEAF) is a school based program that targets families with young children aged 0-4. The program provides a framework that can give each child the best possible start to their education.
Families with young children are welcome to attend ‘Play Cafes’ which are offered at the kindy at a time when the facility is not being used by kindy students. This gives parents and children the opportunity to become comfortable with the kindy environment and establish a relationship with the kindy teacher. Children benefit greatly from the play and learning environment and parents report that they see improvements in their child’s social skills (increased confidence and independence, sharing, taking turns, settling well to activities). Parents also benefit through greater social support networks with other parents, and opportunities to build relationships with the kindy teacher and receive reassurance and parenting information. The program encourages school and community partnerships. Play Cafes receives occasional visits from community health nurses and other services that can support families. Under the caring eye of the kindy teacher and the community health nurse and other visitors, any children or parents in need of assistance can receive attention and early intervention if required. This is delivered in a way that ensures that the parent is an equal partner and the expert when it comes to knowing and understanding their child.
Other components of the program include the opportunity for new kindy students to receive a family visit from the kindy teacher
- free ‘welcome’ packs for parents with information on preparing children for kindy
- useful parent information and local service contacts
- a pre-kindy health screening check conducted by the kindy teacher and local community health nurse.
All these components work together to ensure that children are ready for their best learning experience and can have an anxiety free start to school.
The program has been recognised with three awards.
- Investing In Our Youth and DET won the Department for Communities ‘Outstanding Children and Family Service or Project (Regional Award),
- Fiona Farren won the ‘Adult Award of Recognition’.
- Fiona has also been recognised as a national recipient of the 2009 National Excellence In Teaching Awards. The National Excellence in Teaching Award nomination is available for public viewing – NEiTA Nomination.
An evaluation of the LEAF program for 2008 is available – LEAF Evaluation 2008.
A program evaluation was also completed in 2007 by Dr Katie Thomas – see the LEAF Program Evaluation.
The LEAF program has been found to:
- reduce anxiety about the transition to school
- promote positive social development in children
- encourage children’s independence and self-regulation prior to school
- positively influence the home learning environment
- increase use of services designed to support child and family development
- facilitate early intervention for a range of issues including speech, hearing, behavioural problems, health problems, and delayed development
- increase opportunities for parent support
- provide opportunities to promote the importance of the early years
- facilitate opportunities for inter-agency collaboration benefiting families with young children
For more project information contact Carmen Gregg (08 9721 6951) or Fiona Farren (08 9721 3299)
In 2010, the LEAF steering group were successful in supporting a submission to fund the development of a LEAF training package – see media release here – Royalties for Regions fund LEAF Training Package.