Making Early Learning Inclusive
Inclusion provides opportunities for all children to succeed, despite the challenges they may face. ALL children should be in an environment and surrounded by people that encourage them to learn, grow and thrive (not just survive!). It is through inclusive practices that we help bridge the gap for children who otherwise might be socially, academically or emotionally disadvantaged. We need to look with curiosity at the barriers that are preventing children from engaging and work to overcome those barriers.
When we create an inclusive environment, we are also modelling and teaching life lessons that foster empathy, resilience and compassion, to all those involved. Everyone benefits from being in an inclusive environment! Developing the knowledge and skills to create and maintain such a space is done by collaborating with services, professional development and ongoing support. We spoke to Laura Chamings, Inclusion Agency Contract Manager from the South Australian Inclusion Agency, about the federally funded support available to services.
What is the Inclusion Support Program (ISP)?
Gowrie SA is the Inclusion Agency (IA) for South Australia, delivering free inclusion support services under the Australian Government’s Inclusion Support Program (ISP). We provide assistance to all eligible Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) services to build their capacity to include children with diverse needs and/or backgrounds within mainstream services.
What does it mean for early childhood services to be inclusive?
Every child has the right to be included. Through true inclusive practice, educators are able to provide opportunities for children to develop and learn skills through playing alongside their same-age peers and provide opportunities for children to build confidence and a sense of self and belonging to a group. When a child is included, you will notice how they can confidently engage in play with peers and are supported to explore their worlds to make new discoveries. You will see them being encouraged to build independence and self-help skills and to take part in the program. They will develop a sense of who they are, and of belonging within the group
How can services access the Inclusion Support
Services can complete the request for service form on our website or they can email or phone us: firstname.lastname@example.org or call 1800 129 606
What support is available to Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) services through the ISP?
The Inclusion Agency assists services to include all children by providing tailored inclusion advice and support from Gowrie SA Inclusion Professionals. The Inclusion Professionals are part of a multi-disciplinary team located in both the metropolitan area and regionally.
Develop and implement a tailored Strategic Inclusion Plan (SIP), which will support the Quality Improvement Plan (QIP).
Assist educators and teams to critically reflect on their practices and identify barriers to and possibilities for inclusion.
Acknowledge strengths and reflect on understandings of inclusion.
Provide practical advice on quality inclusive practices to support educators to overcome barriers to a child’s inclusion.
Access to all Inclusion Support Program resources including specialist equipment.
Facilitate access to funding streams to support more challenging inclusion barriers and endorse any funding applications.
Support services to apply to become ‘Inclusion Aware.’
Link with relevant community groups, services and organisations that support inclusion.
Support educators to work in partnership with families and other support networks.
Discuss available options regarding ‘Innovative Solutions’ funding.
Originally published in Connected Caregiving Winter 2022