Winners of the 2019 Victorian Early Years Awards were announced on Tuesday 22 October at the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne.
There was a strong shortlist of 20 organisations and individuals from across the state who received awards at the ceremony. Seven organisations, and one early childhood teacher of the year, were recognised for their achievements and contributions to the Victorian early childhood education and care sector.
VEYA 2019 finalists: making a difference
Category 1: Improving Access and Participation in Early Learning
Awarded for an initiative or program that promotes access and ongoing participation and engagement in early learning, particularly for vulnerable and disadvantaged families.
Moreland City Libraries
A partnership between Merri Health and Moreland City Libraries, Word Play is a dynamic literacy learning model focused on supporting newly-arrived migrant families with low English literacy.
Following a successful pilot in 2018, Word Play now runs weekly at Fawkner Library. The program focuses on fun songs, games and books, with an emphasis on families learning together. Separate adult-focused sessions with a literacy librarian and reading buddy are also available for parents and carers.
Evaluation findings revealed significant improvements across all program objectives, including children's English literacy and school readiness, and the capacity of parents to support their child's learning. Overwhelmingly, respondents said that Word Play helped them to improve their own English.
Partners: Merri Health, State Library Victoria and Public Libraries Victoria
Category 2: Supporting Parents through Evidence-based Practise
Awarded to organisations who are delivering evidence-based practice to support families to develop their skills and confidence to support their child’s wellbeing and development.
Rosanna Golf Links Primary School
Sound Partnerships: Promoting partnerships with families for the teaching of phonics
Rosanna Golf Links Primary School has improved the reading skills of its Foundation children through the Sound Partnerships program.
Families are central to Sound Partnerships. The program views parents and carers as active educators in inclusive, three-way partnerships with staff and children. Parents are empowered through being given access to learning intentions and resources that allow them to understand and reinforce classroom teaching at home. Family knowledge is further built through information nights and sharing information with other parents.
The program works by teaching children letters, sounds, reading and spelling explicitly, synthetically and in a systematic and cumulative manner.
The program has yielded excellent outcomes. Reading ability in Foundation students has improved significantly and many parents have reported a growing love of reading at home.
Category 3: Creating Collaborative Community Partnerships
Awarded for a service or initiative that promotes collaborative practice to support and demonstrate positive outcomes for children and families.
Balnarring Preschool advocates a culture of learning in natural environments and consciously connecting children to the land.
Since 2010 the organisation has been introducing First Peoples world views into its practice and community. This has been carefully guided by Elders from the Boon Wurrung Peoples, on whose land the preschool stands.
First Peoples perspectives are now incorporated into all areas of the daily curriculum, allowing children to learn and explore the Boon Wurrung language, stories, songs and dances.
In 2015 the Bundjil Nest Project (BNP) was established, extending the learning at the preschool to other local services, including schools and early learning centres. In 2018 the Balnarring Preschool held a festival celebrating and honouring First Peoples Cultures.
The popularity of these initiatives, and the high level of enrolments, demonstrate the success of the program.
Partner: Boon Wurrung Foundation
Category 4: Promoting Children’s Health and Wellbeing
Awarded to an initiative, program or project that has demonstrated outstanding achievement promoting children's health and wellbeing.
Banyule Community Health
We Love Stories
We Love Stories is a community literacy campaign that engages families and organisations in West Heidelberg through bookmaking and social media as the starting point for system-level change.
As a community that experiences high levels of disadvantage and trauma, children living in West Heidelberg are at increased risk of low literacy, making them vulnerable to poorer mental, physical and social health across their lifetime.
Banyule Community Health’s We Love Stories program brings the community together to improve literacy outcomes for children through a Collective Impact model. Books are made, printed and then celebrated by children, parents and carers. This process supports positive attachment and oral language development between children and their parents and carers, so children can develop the skills they need to learn to read.
The process is documented on social media to amplify community voices, enabling families to share their successes and literacy know-how.
The success of the program has been seen in the high level of engagement with local families and early years’ settings, and the launch of four books in 2019 as part of the program.
Partner: North East Healthy Communities
Category 5: Continuity of Early Learning
Awarded to two or more early childhood services, schools and/or other organisations to demonstrate how continuity of early learning is achieved by a focus on successful transitions.
Wimmera Southern Mallee Regional Partnership
BY FIVE: Wimmera Southern Mallee Early Years Project
The BY FIVE Wimmera Southern Mallee Early Years project is a place-based community collaboration.
The project aims to dramatically improve outcomes for children by the time they reach five years of age. Teams working in the 15 townships are supported to undertake practitioner inquiry projects to implement change ideas; covering streamlined enrolment, speech screening, enhancing links between services, planning two years of education before school and improving transitions with child-focused consultations.
The complexity of working across 15 towns, where no two places are alike, is recognised with coordination strategies, activating local expertise and commitment. This improved the flow of existing resources and upskilled local community members.
BY FIVE is already improving outcomes for children and families by enhancing access, quality and participation in early years services, and engaging more families earlier in a child's life.
In partnership with the following groups from 15 towns in the Wimmera Southern Mallee region: Maternal and Child Health Services, Supported Playgroups, Childcare Centres, School Early Years Teams, Health Providers, Integrated Family Services, and Local Government.
Category 6: Early Childhood Teacher of the Year
Awarded to an early childhood teacher who demonstrates innovation and exemplary practice in early childhood education, and makes a significant contribution to the development and delivery of high-quality early childhood education programs that improve outcomes for children.
Pope Road Kindergarten, Blackburn
Leanne has an unwavering commitment to early childhood learning and is dedicated to providing children with a rich and rewarding educational experience.
Her practice combines current teaching skills with broader thinking of what early childhood education means and the importance of children's formative years.
She believes strongly in connecting children with the history, culture and stories of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and has led the development of the kindergarten's Reconciliation Action Plan.
Leanne's commitment to early learning has evolved through progressive thinking and continued research. This year she began her Masters in Early Childhood Education.
Category 7: The Emeritus Professor Collette Tayler Excellence in Educational Leadership Award
This award is presented to an early childhood service that has supported its educators and teachers to use intentional teaching practices to achieve improved outcomes for children and their families.
The Geelong College
The Geelong College is committed to the highest quality early learning for children from early childhood education through to Year 3.
In 2019, teachers and educators from the early learning centre and the Junior School have been undertaking a professional learning project together. Learning projects have included audits of technology use across the Junior School, an audio-visual representation of the 'hundred languages' using children's many expressive arts, and sharing numeracy experiences and teaching strategies.
The project has drawn an enthusiastic response and has allowed early childhood educators, early childhood teachers and primary teachers to work together and improve their understanding of each other's learning environments.
The Minister’s Award is a special commendation that has been selected from the pool of finalists across all seven categories and presented by the Minister. The winner of this year’s Award is for a partnership that has demonstrated remarkable success in supporting their children to transition from kindergarten to school.
Keysborough Primary School
Walking from one room into another room
Walking from one room into another room is a partnership between Keysborough Primary School and Darren Reserve Kindergarten. The project team decided to improve the transition from kindergarten to school for local children by developing a shared curriculum and a suite of new initiatives.
This approach was designed to support the developmental journey of children and help them build oral language, curiosity, confidence, creativity, commitment and cooperation skills.
The partnership team has noticed significant improvements since beginning the project. Children are more comfortable learning in school and parents are better informed about what to expect during the transition.
Partner: Darren Reserve Kindergarten