A decline in school readiness in Coonabarabran has lead to the formation of a new group.
Results from the Australian Early Development Census, a nation-wide survey conducted every three years, indicates how young people have developed as they start their first year of school.
The information highlights areas that are working well and areas that require improvement.
Comparing local data from 2012 and 2015 reveals there has been a significant increase in the percentage of children “developmentally at risk” and “developmentally vulnerable” in three out of five areas measured:
• physical health and wellbeing;
• social competence; and
• emotional maturity.
Liz Fox, from Samaritans Child and Parenting Support, presented the results of the census at a monthly interagency meeting, with the idea to establish a task force to bring down the statistics.
The first meeting of the Little People Task Force was held in March, and was attended by representatives from service agencies and schools who work with children aged 0-6, including Samaritans, Barnados, Centacare, Yuluwirri Kids, Family Day Care, Connect 5, St Lawrence’s, Coona Public, Live Better, Family and Community Services and Community Health.
Mrs Fox said the purpose of the committee was to work towards better outcomes for children in the community.
“Initially, we invited the schools along so they could tell us about what they saw with children entering school in kindergarten, and both schools said there were growing numbers of children entering school who were not ready to learn,” Mrs Fox said.
“Coonabarabran Public School and St Lawrence’s have changed the orientation of their school programs to address this.
“Both schools have programs for children that run for a full year before they start kindergarten - the schools say this is helping those children who are attending.”
While the reason behind the drop in school readiness is not certain, Mrs Fox said there were a range of services in the community that could assist families.
“Services such as playgroups, parenting programs, preschool, and parenting support, when accessed by families, have shown to increase children’s social and emotional development,” she said.
“We recognise that parenting is not an easy job and we want to let parents know that they do not have to do it alone.
“Connection to community is very important for families and we want them to feel a very valued part of our community.”
The Little People Fun Day, held at the No.1 Oval in Coonabarabran on Tuesday, 18 September, aimed to foster this connection.
The event was hailed a huge success, with children enjoying games, free barbecue, painting and jumping castle.
“Our main hope is that families are supported by the local community in their parenting role,” Mrs Fox said.
“We are also very open to suggestions from people in the community for our next project!”
Members of the Little People Task Force helped put together a successful event for youth in Coonabarabran on Tuesday, 18 September.