7 Dec 2022
Moving into kindergarten and primary school can be tricky at the best of times – and for many vulnerable families, it can present serious challenges.
However, helping to prepare both children and parents in everything from social skills to reading can set positive foundation skills for lifelong learning and engagement.
That’s why The Ross Trust is pleased to provide $160,727 to support OzChild, a leading welfare agency, in delivering programs to vulnerable families in south-western Victoria.
Joe-Anne Nicholas, from OzChild, said that students who started school lacking in social, emotional, and reading readiness often disengaged later in their education.
“Our Stepping Stones to School (SS2S) program provides individual family support for transitions to kindergarten and primary school, using a community development lens to improve collaboration and integration of the early years’ sector,” she says.
The Ross Trust’s grant will support OzChild to deliver SS2S over three years in the Shires of Glenelg, Southern Grampians, Corangamite, and Moyne.
Joe-Anne said SS2S helped to identify children at risk or with development delays, strengthened connections with schools, and worked with kindergartens and schools towards smooth transitions. If needed, children could be referred to allied and health professionals to help with speech, hearing, and occupational therapy, as well as paediatric assessments and behavioural psychology.
She said that many families supported by the program were single parents living in a cycle of poverty and unemployment. Some lived in unstable accommodation, such as caravans or emergency housing, and also experienced family violence and substance abuse issues.
“These parents need additional support to build their capacity, knowledge and confidence to support their child’s development and trust in the new experiences,” she said. “We have estimated that this program could support up to 70 families each year – equating to 175 beneficiaries receiving intensive one-on-one family support each year.”
The Ross Trust’s grant also means that OzChild can explore the feasibility of expanding SS2S to the Warrnambool area in the future.
The Ross Trust Senior Program Manager, Meghan Weekes, says that it was great to see the successes of the program so far, and the Trust was pleased to continue its support.
“This project strongly aligns in many ways with our desired changes,” she said. “It addresses disengagement in education, supports First Nation and Torres Strait Islander families, provides early intervention and support, builds relationships between parents, early years providers and schools, and provides educational support in the regional area of Great South Coast.”
Stepping Stones To School (SS2S) is an initiative of Beyond the Bell, a 20-year strategy in South West Victoria which aims to improve year 12 attainment rates through innovative programs. SS2S is one of the programs supported by Beyond The Bell, delivered by OzChild.