SERVICES for the district’s youngest residents have been given a boost with the announcement of state government grants for all the kindergartens managed by the Prom Coast Centres for Children (PCCC).
Each of the kindergartens will receive an Information Technology Grant – $676 for the Foster centre, and $1500 each for Fish Creek, Toora and Welshpool kindergartens.
Best of all, Fish Creek Kindergarten has been successful in its application for a Minor Infrastructure Expansion Grant of $19,391.20.
Thrilled to hear the news, PCCC director Wil Pruyn said the infrastructure funding would be used to extend the covered veranda at the Fish Creek kindergarten, to cater for more children in the outdoor/indoor play area.
“Wet weather days are regular and it is during this time the existing enclosed veranda space is utilised on a regular basis and has become quite overcrowded, especially on the days when the service operates an integrated three-year-old kindergarten program alongside the four-year-old kindergarten program,” said Ms Pruyn.
She said that the Fish Creek kindergarten made the transition to the new educator to child ratios this year, in preparation for the 2016 regulation change. “During this transition there have been up to four staff working with 28 children at any one time (three staff plus one additional needs assistant), which has highlighted the need for additional undercover space at the service.”
The Fish Creek kindergarten regularly provides for children with special needs. The additional undercover area space will support the additional increase in staff ratios that occurs when special needs children are funded at the service. It will provide a space for educators to work with the special needs children when they are not integrating within group activities. This space can also be used by educators, special intervention workers, other professionals and parents to meet in private.
“A wider veranda space will also work as an extension of the classroom, once the sliding doors are open and the blinds pulled down, which will provide for a more effective space for the educators to plan for additional experiences and activities to enhance each child’s development and learning,” said Ms Pruyn.
The Fish Creek kindergarten has experienced growth in its enrolment numbers over the past four years. The extension of the veranda area will allow for the service to continue to grow.
Ms Pruyn said that PCCC would investigate applying for an increase to the number of licensed places at the popular kindergarten service from 28 to 33 children if the extension is completed and meets all other regulation standards.
As for the Information Technology Grants, they will be used to purchase iPods and wireless speakers so that music can be incorporated into the education programs at all the centres. Some of the money will go towards upgrading computer equipment to give the kinder teachers access to integrated systems with up-to-date programs and applications. With a number of satellite services (Fish Creek, Toora, Welshpool), PCCC is trying to make the most of cloud technology that provides for the efficient sharing of information between management and educators and families. It is all part of a general aim to work towards sustainable practices by reducing paper usage and printing.
The exciting funding announcement comes at a time when children’s services are very much in the spotlight in South Gippsland.
On the agenda of the next council meeting, due to be held next Wednesday, October 28, is a discussion of how South Gippsland Shire Council can best continue to support the kindergartens in the Corner Inlet area.
PCCC manages all kindergarten services in Corner Inlet, and the Foster-based volunteer community organisation is committed to providing accessible, local, early years services in the Corner Inlet area.
While the main Foster centre was constructed only a few years ago, the satellite kindergarten programs of Toora, Welshpool and Fish Creek operate from infrastructure that was built in the 1960s or 1970s. While the size of the buildings will continue to accommodate future demand, the dated floor plan and design of the buildings presents a challenge in all three buildings. The report that will be considered at the council meeting recommends that Council:
Continues to maintain and improve the existing facilities at Fish Creek, Toora and Welshpool for a minimum of five years;
Collaborates with Prom Coast Centres for Children to identify functional requirements across the three satellite kindergartens and invests the allocated $168,195 based on agreed priorities over the next five years;
Plans for the upgrade of the Fish Creek kindergarten in the next 15-20 years.
Most controversially, the report also recommends that Council investigates, in consultation with the community, the development of one integrated community hub to meet the service requirements of a 22-place kindergarten and ancillary services for Toora and Welshpool in the next five to ten years.
Anyone who wishes to express their views on these recommendations is invited to contact Shelley Fixter at South Gippsland Shire Council on 5662 9226 or contact the mayor, Cr Jeanette Harding (0417 546 578) or other local ward councillors – Cr Mohya Davies (0429 386 297) or Cr Kieran Kennedy (0407 838 820).