Access to early years programs and services within rural and remote communities is a challenge, with many families having to travel a significant distance to access pre school and early years services, often only provided in larger population centres.
In recent times, many rural and remote education communities have developed some innovative thinking in developing ways in which they can provide such services and programs for their families – often linking these services to the existing school site.
Dederang Primary School and broader community is one of these creative communities.
The school is located in the Kiewa Valley of the North East region of Victoria and is close to the picturesque locations of Mt Beauty and Falls Creek. The school has been located within the community for a number of years now and gains great community support with families and the broader community getting involved in a range of programs and activities.
It is a small school with only 23 students.
Over the past couple of years, the community has been working hard, and creatively, to develop a way in which an Early Years program could be located on the school site, especially in light of the school having building space to utilise for such a facility.
Just a few weeks ago, they were able to officially open their kinder and childcare program.
As the principal of the Dederang Primary School, Bronwen Martin said:
“At Dederang Primary School, we focus on challenging children to be curious, creative and caring. Our decision to extend what we do, to include providing quality childcare with an integrated 15 hour a week kinder program inspired by Reggio Emilia for children aged 3-5 just two years ago, not only strived to address the rural early educational challenges described but also injected optimism, and a massive learning curve into our school community.”
The integrated kinder program, inspired by Reggio Emilia enlarged our organisation, has pursued excellence, created employment opportunities, and has nurtured an extremely solid transition for children into our school.
The whole focus of the early years initiative is to encourage children to learn about themselves and the environment around them through investigation and discovery. The children initiate the direction of learning through a period of play at the start of the day. The new defined spaces allow the children to engage in activities which suit their interests.
Our goal is to become a best practice small rural provider, and to then share our approach with others so that it can be adapted to different settings and thereby support more rural children towards learning outcomes that will be on par with metropolitan settings, paving the way for rural children to have equivalent learning aspirations.
This approach show that rural communities, given the encouragement to think creatively, and be supported, can develop and provide great learning and development for their children and young people.
If you are a rural community who has developed a creative approach to the provision of learning for children and young people CEP would love to promote your program through Bush Voices. Let us know.