Kinder pri­or­i­ties iden­ti­fied in plan

Warragul & Drouin Gazette - - NEWS -

A re­port as­sess­ing in­fra­struc­ture for early years ser­vices across Baw Baw Shire has iden­ti­fied an ur­gent need for new hubs in Drouin and Trafal­gar.

The mu­nic­i­pal early years in­fra­struc­ture plan re­port pre­sented to coun­cil rec­om­mended two early years hubs were a high pri­or­ity for Drouin and Trafal­gar in the next 12 months.

When coun­cil es­tab­lishes new early child­hood hubs, the re­port rec­om­mends coun­cil adopt the best prac­tice model and de­velop fa­cil­i­ties that in­clude two 60 place rooms; two ma­ter­nal child health rooms; a space for meet­ings and par­ent groups; and an an­cil­lary space for wait­ing rooms, stor­age, toi­lets and baby change/feed­ing fa­cil­i­ties.

The plan said kinder­garten ser­vices were un­der in­creas­ing pres­sure across the shire. Fig­ures this year showed there was de­mand for 239 of the 238 avail­able places in Drouin; and, in Trafal­gar there was de­mand for 57 of the 58 places.

“Kinder­garten records and anec­do­tal; in­for­ma­tion sug­gests some fam­i­lies liv­ing in Trafal­gar travel; to other towns such as War­ragul and Yar­ragon.

The plan also iden­ti­fied fu­ture needs and emerg­ing trends in­clud­ing the need for spa­ces that sup­port vis­its from health ser­vices such as oc­cu­pa­tional ther­a­pists and speech ther­a­pists.

Fu­ture de­signs should in­clude larger out­door ar­eas with more trees and play spa­ces; and, larger rooms and break­out ar­eas for an in­creased va­ri­ety or pro­grams.

The plan in­cluded rec­om­men­da­tions for early years in­fra­struc­ture over the next 20 years.

In a re­port to coun­cil, of­fi­cers said there had been un­prece­dented de­mand on early years ser­vices re­sult­ing in growth of pro­grams such as fam­ily day care, ma­ter­nal and child health and kinder­gartens.

“While some of these pro­grams can be ex­panded with min­i­mal in­fra­struc­ture re­quire­ments (such as fam­ily day care), oth­ers re­quire in­creased phys­i­cal space to keep up with the grow­ing de­mand.

“The MEYIP is in­tended to in­form and sup­port Coun­cil’s de­ci­sion-mak­ing process re­gard­ing any fu­ture in­fra­struc­ture in­vest­ment in the early years.

Cr Dar­ren Wal­lace said the re­port showed there were ma­jor is­sues to be ad­dressed in Drouin and Trafal­gar but there also were emerg­ing is­sues in Long­warry for early learn­ing places.

“We have to be mind­ful of early ed­u­ca­tion and to tap into fed­eral and state fund­ing.

Cr Wal­lace said the re­port pro­vided ev­i­dence of what early learn­ing in­fra­struc­ture is needed in the shire.

Cr Tricia Jones said for a long time there was no real need to build new kinder­gartens or early learn­ing cen­tres.

“But the rapid growth has changed all of that. For the past five years it has been a stress­ful ex­er­cise to keep up with and ac­com­mo­date young chil­dren seek­ing kinder places.

“Lo­cal gov­ern­ment is the clos­est level to the peo­ple and ev­ery op­por­tu­nity has been un­der­taken to give them the op­por­tu­nity to at­tend kinder­garten at their pre­ferred lo­ca­tion.

“In a rate capped en­vi­ron­ment, it makes it very dif­fi­cult to sup­port all the fa­cil­i­ties,” she said.

Cr Jes­sica O’Don­nell said coun­cil knew the growth was oc­cur­ring, so it was great to know coun­cil had a strate­gic ap­proach.

Cr Keith Cook said the plan went to great lengths to iden­tify needs for early learn­ing.

Cr Joe Gauci said it was im­por­tant to use the plan to ad­vo­cate for fund­ing. “As a coun­cil we can’t fund a new kinder­garten ev­ery 18 months to two years.”

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