Valley to discuss education future

TOMORROW parents, educators and service providers from across Gippsland will come together in the Latrobe Valley to have their say on Victorian early childhood education.

Latrobe Valley is one of seven chosen regions where the State Government is hosting consultation sessions in a bid to become the ‘Education State’.

Earlier this year it committed $747 million to start flowing over four years from 2016, to meet state-wide targets of school participation and resources, breaking the cycle of disadvantage.

The funding followed consultation with stakeholders, families and educators and the conversation is now turning to those in their first five years of life.

“We want to lift early childhood outcomes in this state, making sure no child misses out,” Families and Children Minister Jenny Mikakos said.

“I want to see all children participate in kindergarten, whether they are from an Aboriginal family or are newly arrived to the state, and make sure they get the benefit of quality education.

“We know particularly quality early childhood services give children the best start to their life.”

Tomorrow’s consultation will focus on what early childhood development means to each attendee along with the challenges, weaknesses and gaps in Victoria’s early childhood system.

The conversation will be based on the Early Childhood Consultation Paper, which proposes five areas of reform.

Ms Mikakos said the government was particularly interested in consulting with the Gippsland community due to the differing experiences from region to region.

She said although the state experienced high kindergarten participation rates, which averaged 98.2 per cent in 2013, these continued to differ between each local government area.

“I want to make sure parents are aware kindergarten is part of a child’s education,” Ms Mikakos said.

“We don’t want families viewing it as a child-minding service – we need to change community perceptions around these issues.”

Ms Mikakos also pointed to the role of the maternal childhood nurses, who she said a number of families stopped seeing once their child was aged about one years.

“Despite the fact they are eligible to continue with that service until their child is three and a half,” she said.

“We want to encourage families to utilise those services as much as possible and provide better support for parents and carers.”

Tomorrow’s consultations will help form a final report to shape the key targets and recommendations for Victorian early childhood reform as part of a 10-year plan.

Ms Mikakos said she would have more to say about additional funding once those outcomes were established.

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