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Author Topic: Parents should welcome early learning blueprint  (Read 1243 times)

Offline CareDC

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Parents should welcome early learning blueprint
« on: July 25, 2009, 01:26:51 PM »
The Liberal Government of Ontario has taken a bold and innovative step in having Dr. Charles Pascal develop the full day early learning blueprint.

The document, With Our Best Future in Mind, was released last month after much anticipation by educators and parents. The research behind the importance of quality early learning cannot be debated. Dr. Fraser Mustard has made us aware that one in four children is not ready when they start formal school and this statistic is reinforced by the Pascal report. If a child is significantly behind their peers at the onset of school they may never close the gap. Many go on to be disruptive, withdrawn and unsuccessful within the school system; eventually dropping out and lessening their potential to best contribute to society. The high school dropout rate in Brantford-Brant is 27% which sadly reinforces the 1-4 data.

Currently, in the year children turn 4 they are eligible to start attending Junior Kindergarten and likewise at 5, Senior Kindergarten. The program may run alternate full days or every half day. Parents scramble to find alternate before and after care and transportation to and from school for their youngsters. The children, who may be experiencing their first separation from home, have several transitions each day, which can be emotional taxing. Parents, of course have the choice to keep their child at home until they are age 6. This option remains the same in the full day early learning recommendations.

It is important to understand that over 80% of parents who have preschool children are in the workforce and these children are already in non parental care. The full day early learning concept will help to coordinate services to best meet the needs of these children. Many are fortunate enough to be enrolled in quality early learning programs with dedicated early childhood professionals. However all children do not have this opportunity due to cost, accessibility or lack of spaces. Large numbers of children are missing out on this experience and in some cases are left in less than desirable situations. The entire system of early childhood services is disconnected and this can be frustrating for families and educators but most importantly may not be meeting the needs of our children in this critical learning and development stage. The goal should be for ALL children to enter formal school on a level playing field!

An experimental program called First Duty was piloted in Toronto over the past 5-6 years. Privately funded by the Atkinson Foundation, First Duty set up a model where Kindergarten Teachers and Early Childhood Educators worked as a Team and children were allowed to develop as individuals within the school setting. Ratios of 1-8 allowed for lots of one on one and small group work. Those who weren't ready in the fall to focus for long periods of time had options of alternate play based learning with a qualified teacher and as the year progressed so did the children. Before and after care was provided at the same site which made the parent's life easier and provided consistency for the child. The results of this model have been extremely positive in terms of the children's development and the educator's satisfaction. I have attended First Duty sites on several occasions and took leaders from our child care services and both school boards to audit in the winter of 2006. As Dr. Pascal was the Executive Director of the Atkinson Foundation when the investment was made in First Duty I am not surprised to see that he has suggested a similar model for the province of Ontario.

There is always fear of change. Child Care operators rightfully are concerned that they will lose their businesses that they have worked hard to establish. Kindergarten teachers have concerns about sharing their classrooms with early childhood educators and the new twelve month format. School boards wonder if they will have space and funds to handle the required expansion and parents are confused at what this full day really looks like and if it is actually what they want for their young child.


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