What is the Working Together for Three-Year-Olds (WT3) initiative?
Each year, there are approximately 2,500 three-year-olds in Tasmania who don’t attend centre-based early learning. Many children can’t access these opportunities due to barriers such as cost, access to transport options and parents or carers who may experience anxiety and depression, fear of judgement and intergenerational obstacles to education.
WT3 is a Tasmanian government initiative that gives eligible three-year-olds the opportunity to participate in free, quality early learning. In 2019, WT3 is being piloted with service partners across five Tasmanian locations, with 50 open places in 12 early learning centres.
We worked in partnership with the Department of Education in Tasmania, Clear Horizons and The Tasmanian Council of Social Services (TasCOSS) to break down some of these barriers and make early learning more accessible for three-year-olds.
We used an evidence-based co-design approach to build a program with families that works for families. We built on the principle that people and communities have the wisdom and lived experience to play an active role in decisions that affect them by working in partnership with families, children, early childhood education and care service providers and communities.
Service providers and families learned so much from each other. Service providers discovered the deep impact the experience they create has on families and children. The Department of Education also provided cultural-awareness and trauma-informed practice training, which helped service providers shift their approach and better understand the challenges facing some families. Meanwhile, parents and carers grew their confidence as they saw their contribution valued and guiding the design. The three year olds built story books and maps that captured their perspective, and had some fun!
The service that was co-designed included a more relaxed registration experience and a new ‘Engagement worker’ role to help build connections outside of early learning centres that made pathways into early learning and connection to other supports easier for families and children.
After a four month pilot, an exciting chapter in the WT3 journey came to a close in July 2019.
Part of the design process included a reflection session that explored what was learned, celebrated the significant successes, identified and worked through challenges and explored opportunities for improvement.
In addition to the session to review the success and challenges of the project, TACSI also participated in an evaluation workshop facilitated by project partners Clear Horizons. This was designed to reflect and share the collective insights of the journey so far and included input from the service partner, Department of Education in Tasmania, the Tasmanian Council of Social Services (TasCOSS) and TACSI. TasCOSS also shared the impact and experiences of the families who participated in the WT3 program.
What was heard was many positive stories of change both for individual children but also for the families who participated in the initiative. What became evident was the impact that was felt primarily when it came to relationship building between children and the educators and their parents/carers and educators.
We are now in a wrap up phase of this project and TACSI will complete recommendations for the proposed WT3 service model moving forward. This will include opportunities for scaling WT3 to additional locations across Tasmania from 2020. These recommendations will be in partnership with the Department of Education and others, so that more children and families can benefit from the WT3 opportunity.
It’s been hugely rewarding to see the early outcomes and the positive impact the 4-months pilot has had on children, families and educators.
Learn more about the Working Together program running today.