Early Life Foundations takes particular pride in upholding our mission to an independent voice throughout Australia for children, parents and educators. In our efforts to maintain independence, we utilise national and international research and evidence-based practice in order to ensure that the practices we recommend and the information we provide are based upon valid and credible sources rather than political or economic flavours of a particular time in history.
Our work with all groups throughout the community, from indigenous children, families and teachers in some of the country's most remote areas to inner suburban cities and growth corridors, different religious groups and different types of schools, highlights the diversity and the similarities that all children and families share.
All children require play, a childhood, education, time, relationships, health and adult support. All families require support, information and access to education and health for their children and themselves. All communities require organisations to listen to them, rather than simply to be told what and how to do things.
We are delighted to be working with and learning from so many parents, children and professionals in our work and so pleased to be able to offer an independent voice to Australian children, families and educators.
We present this Early Life Foundations Annual Report for 2011 with great excitement and pleasure. The report provides a summary of the key activities and initiatives guided by our strategic plan and matched against our operational plan.
Strategic Priorities and Achievements
2011 was the first year of our 2011-2016 Strategic Plan. The key foci this year have been to:
1. Increase the exposure of the organisation and the services offered to the public and professionals
We have worked towards increasing our expose by our new office space, dissemination of the newsletter (electronic and hard copy), book launches, media interviews, website and facebook and end of year function and awards.
The opening of the office space in Gardenvale has made a significant contribution to establishing the home base of ELF. This office space has had extensive use for: (i) parent consultations; (ii) "boutique professional development" (iii) meetings and (iv) team meetings and PD. The newsletter continues to be a great source of information for parents, early childhood educators and primary teachers. The contribution from Anne Epstein (USA) for our feature article was significant and valuable and many parents and teachers have given us feedback of how much they value the information provided in the newsletter. The publication of our three books (Ready Set Go, Play matters and Engagement matters) and subsequent book launches has resulted in exposure across many domains.
We have had steady media representation in print and radio and most significantly the Walker Learning Approach was highlighted in a segment of the Circle on Channel 10. This segment was broadcast nationally and we the office received a great response from the segment.
The organisation hosted an end of year function in St Kilda in December that was attended by 40 guests representing the broad range of organisations and professionals we work with. Our communication conduits of the website and facebook continue to be a major source of contact for many nationally and internationally. On the earlylife.com.au website per month there were on average 3,606 unique visitors; 45,834 pages viewed and 2,831 search entries. On the walkerlearning.com.au site per month there were on average 1,182 unique visitors; 8,025 pages viewed and 1,045 search entries.
We were delighted that guests made the effort to travel from Arnhem Land, Tasmania and country Victoria to attend the function. The Early Life Foundations Inaugural Awards were highly appreciated by all who were acknowledged for their exceptional contributions to the field.
2. Develop and extend our parent support service
We have worked hard this year to develop and extend the parent support service. We have provided over 200 parent presentations; fours parent workshop series; 100 face-to-face consultations and 100 free phone consultations. We have also provided 50 School Readiness assessments.
3. Engage more Early Childhood Professionals in professional development opportunities
In 2012 the organisation prioritised the support and education of early childhood educators. This coincided with 2012 being a very difficult year for many Early Childhood Educators whose discontent, stress levels, and confusion with the expectations and practice in the field has been at an all time low. The Early Childhood professional development sessions were well attended with an average of 60 participants attending each session. One of our most popular PD sessions titled "Want your life back?" provided Early Childhood Educators with strategies and a belief in themselves as professionals in the pre-school setting.
Newsletter articles, editorials and Facebook postings resonated with many Early Childhood Educators who demonstrated this resonance and appreciation of support from our organisation through their emails, phone calls and facebook postings.
4. To facilitate the implementation of the Walker Learning Approach nationally and internationally
The Walker Learning Approach (pre-school to year 9) is making a significant difference to children, teachers and school communities across the country.
The highlights of the Walker Learning Approach in 2011 include significant: expansion of the approach into SA and Tasmania; increase in the number of teachers accredited in the approach (n=21 in 2011). We are delighted to have the first teachers to be accredited in NT, Tasmania and SA. The WLA (3-6) is taking off rapidly across the country. There has been outstanding success and popularity of all study tours and the introduction of WLA (3-6) study tours. The consolidation of the Walker Learning Approach in schools is being demonstrated by the introduction of WLA leadership symposiums and accreditation
We are very excited to be working with the NT education department to implement the Walker Learning approach in the mobile pre schools and the early years of primary school. We have conducted PD in Alice Springs and Katherine and three have been some wonderful changes taking place in the pre-schools and schools in remote indigenous communities. The international profile of the WLA is taking hold with expressions of interest from the USE, China, Indonesia and the Middle East. International schools (China and Indonesia) are planning to implement the WLA in 2012
This year has been one of consolidation of the platform from where we want to launch our key initiatives. It has been one of hard work, long hours and lots of travel - but it has brought us to a point where the organisation has moved beyond a small group of professionals working together to an organisation with national and international profile. The organisation has now reached prominence as one of the key advocates and agencies for parenting and education for children birth to 12 years. The organisation will be moving to be administered as a trust in 2012. Consistent with the growth in size and service delivery we are excited to be making our first contract appointment's - Rachel Fox - Mentor and Communications Officer and Caroline Jemison (Administration). We also say a fond farewell for a year to Marina Portelli. Marina has been working with us for the past two years as a mentor and admin officer. She is taking 12 months leave and we wish her well for 2012.
We would like to extend our well wishes to all who we have worked with this year and look forward to our continued shared journey in 2012.
Kathy Walker and Shona Bass