“So many children being helped in so many ways beyond their literacy development. I see so clearly just in my little group how improving their skills and confidence in this area flows on to their everyday attitude and endeavor. How wonderful for you to know you have been pivotal in not only changing the lives of so many children, but also educators who will go on doing their jobs better for years to come. I only wish you had come along earlier in my career!”
Literacy teacher in the No Limits Program
Evidence abounds to support the correlation between educational attainment and economic independence. In the areas of highest socio economic disadvantage on the Mornington Peninsula, educational attainment rates are low; in some cases, less than 50% of students enrolling in year 7 will complete year 12.
If we look more deeply, data shows that in some cases, less than 70% of students enrolling in year 7 are at the expected levels in literacy.
Back further still, up to 90% of children entering the foundation year require oral language intervention.
As a precursor to reading, this very low level of oral language in the early years could be a critical element in the long term outcome that sees young people disengaging from school before completion and having very slim prospects of employment and independence. This is supported by the growing body of research around early indicators of educational attainment.
Many factors contribute to these data, including environmental stress and trauma. Working closely with principals, teachers, staff, specialists, and families, we are supporting communities to build an approach that focuses on oral language in the early years, phonics based literacy in primary and early secondary and trauma informed practice.
And with more and more research showing the direct link between music and oral language, we are excited to be including music in some of our primary schools programs too.
The major projects are described here and while projects are separated, as they grow in reach and strength, they are beginning to flow into each other, forming a community wide pathway that meshes together, ensuring all children, young people and their families are supported by a collaborative network that enables them to succeed in their education.
Education – Projects
The Western Port Learning Guarantee (WPLG)
The WPLG is the culmination of ground breaking work by visionary and dedicated educational leaders in the Western Port region.
It has grown from their belief that all children and young people should have access to the opportunities high quality education provides and that the system needs to change, and those changes sustained, in order to ensure that happens.
MPF is proud to support this work that links together a series of initiatives that ensure no child falls through the cracks.
- No Limits is about oral language and literacy in the early years (kinder – year 2);
- Music is for all primary school students in the feeder schools;
- Learning Enhancement is about literacy and wellbeing years 3 – 6;
- Elevate is about retention and completion in secondary school.
No Limits and Music are in operation at Tyabb Railway Station, Crib Point, Wallaroo, Hastings and Tootgarook Primary Schools.
Learning Enhancement is currently at Tyabb Railway Station and Crib Point Primary Schools.
Elevate at Western Port Secondary College.
WPLG works closely with the Family Support Service at Western Port Community Support Centre as a crucial partner in this community wide, community driven, place based initiative.
No Limits is a speech and oral language program created in response to low levels of oral language in children coming to kinder and prep in some areas of the Mornington Peninsula.
- Participating Primary Schools: Eastbourne, Tootgarook, Mornington Park, Hastings, Crib Point, Tyabb Railway Station, Wallaroo
- Participating Kinders: Community Kinders Plus (Tyabb, Hastings, Wallaroo, Crib Point, Mornington Park), Seawinds Community Hub Kinder
- Speech Pathology Partner: Peninsula Speech Plus
- Evaluation Partners in 2022: Murdoch Children’s Research Institute and University of Melbourne
- Major donors: Bertalli Family Foundation, Collier Charitable Foundation, RM Ansett Trust, Zagora Foundation, Bowness Family Foundation, Grace and Emilio Foundation, Sentinel Foundation, SALT Impact, Ross Trust, Allan and Kate Gibson Family Foundation, Johnstone Family Foundation
No Limits was formed by a group of primary school principals who could see that without appropriate intervention, the majority of these children would not have the oral language foundations to learn to read. This outcome was being experienced by the secondary schools whose data showed that less than 30% of children enrolling in year 7 were at expected levels in literacy.
A pilot was conducted at Crib Point Primary in 2018. Results were outstanding and more schools wanted to participate.
MPF was able to raise over $1M from dedicated donors and set out on a three year program that included six schools and kinders.
No Limits provides a speech therapist once a fortnight at each school and kinder. They first assess all children then create individual interventions to address the needs. Each site has a dedicated educational assistant to support the work in partnership with the class teacher and integrate it into the daily curriculum. Phonemic awareness has been shown to be one of the most significant areas of need and of growth in response to intervention. This links into the teaching of reading and the need for schools to build capacity in this area. Some schools have reviewed their whole approach to teaching literacy and seen dramatic improvements. Each school is different, but the fundamental commitment to a phonics based approach is driving the changes the program was set up to address.
The three year project has just finished, including navigating the challenges of remote learning, with very promising outcomes. A further year’s funding has been secured to enable a full evaluation of the program with the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute and University of Melbourne.
This work is flowing directly into the Learning Enhancement program in Western Port and will be part of the newly created Rosebud Education Initiative driven by Rosebud Secondary College and their same critical need to increase levels of literacy in students enrolling in year 7.
The Learning Enhancement Program (LEP)
- Participating Schools: Western Port Secondary College, Tyabb Railway Station Primary School, Crib Point Primary School
- Major donors: Helen Macpherson Smith Trust, Ross Trust, Igniting Change, Mellett Family Foundation
- Community Partner: Western Port Community Support Centre
The Learning Enhancement Program addresses very low rates of readiness for secondary school, with 70% of students enrolling in year 7 not at expected levels.
The program involves
- assessment and targeted intervention in literacy using evidence based synthetic phonics;
- a consistent whole school response to intervention and
- a coordinated response to child trauma and family stress in partnership with local family services.
The initiative involves the appointment of two additional staff members: the Learning Coordinator and the Wellbeing Coordinator. Both are based at the Secondary School, but outreach two days per week to the two participating primary schools.
The Learning Coordinator focuses on addressing gaps in student learning in literacy and numeracy with the objective of reaching the levels required to fully engage in the secondary curriculum. The incorporation of a phonics based approach to the teaching of literacy has been a key component of this work and indeed of all the work that comprises the Western Port Learning Guarantee.
The Wellbeing Coordinator is dedicated to supporting the students and families in the primary schools, identifying issues of concern early, working directly with students and families and with external services as required. Navigating services is a constant issue of concern for families and this role significantly streamlines the process, reducing stress and ensuring a timely, effective response. This role works closely with the Family Support Worker at the Western Port Community Support Centre who maintains a flexible, client driven approach.
Currently Tyabb Railway Station Primary and Crib Point Primary Schools are involved in this program. We hope to expand to more schools as we continue the program in 2022.
- Participating School: Western Port Secondary College
- Major donor: Hugh D. T. Williamson Foundation
Elevate focuses on high absentee and low school completion rates. It incorporates teaching practices and philosophies successfully employed at Oakwood School into a mainstream setting. It focuses on gaps in reading and writing and trauma resulting from environmental stress as well as whole school culture change through all staff training in trauma informed practice.
Students work at the Elevate House, which is separate to mainstream classes, but on the school campus. They are supported by dedicated staff (and Norman the therapy dog!) to work through individual learning programs with the aim of transitioning back into mainstream.
While Elevate has supported individual students over the last two years to re-engage with learning, the most impressive change has been at the whole school level to support EVERY CHILD, EVERY DAY, WITHOUT EXCEPTION.
MPF is hugely grateful to the Hugh D. T. Williamson Foundation for magnificent support of this program in 2020 and 2021 and for continuing this in 2022 towards sustainability.
- Participating Schools: Western Port Secondary College, Crib Point Primary, Tyabb Railway Station Primary, Wallaroo Primary, Hastings Primary
- Major donor: Life Fitness Australia Ltd
The MPF Music program integrates into the Western Port Learning Guarantee by networking four of the feeder primary schools with the Secondary College.
The music teacher is based at the Secondary College, and outreaches four days a week to four different primary schools.
He delivers a rigorous, educational and fun program across the primary school years building on the foundations of pitch and rhythm and engaging the children through interactive activities. As the program develops there will be more opportunities to join schools in combined choirs and productions. There is also the opportunity to link the work in the primary schools with the secondary, adding to the WPLG approach to continuity and supportive transitions.
For some children music can be a way of expressing themselves that they can’t find in the regular classroom. For others it can support the development of oral language. For the vast majority it is fun, as the overwhelmingly positive student feedback clearly indicates!
We are sincerely grateful to Life Fitness Australia for enabling the establishment of this program and its continuation in 2022.
Since 2017 MPF has partnered with St Vincent de Paul Rye Chapter and their amazing team of volunteers to build the Scholarships Program.
The team, led by retired primary principal, Eric White, have built strong relationships with the local primary and secondary schools and towards the end of each year they work together to select 4 – 6 students per school who are awarded scholarships worth $500 each.
The program responds to the dramatic increase in costs at key transition points in education. Specifically these are between year 6 and 7 and between year 10 and 11/12. Often these costs are out of reach of families and when items such as books, technology, uniforms, shoes and school camps and excursions are not available, students can become isolated. Combining this with the very low literacy rates mentioned above can exacerbate the already challenging path of transition.
In the upper secondary years subject choices are often avoided if they incur additional costs, which further disadvantages students already with less choices generally than their better resourced fellow students at nearby locations.
Scholarships are awarded proudly at annual Award Nights. The focus is on recognising a student and family’s commitment to education and their potential to succeed. Often it is this recognition that is of great significance, providing a boost of support and an understanding that they are part of a bigger, wider community that cares about them and their futures.
Funds are paid to the school the student will attend or is currently attending and released to cover relevant costs.
Over 250 scholarships have been awarded to date, funded generously by a range of donors, with our pioneering first adopters, the Grace and Emilio Foundation and the Sentinel Foundation remaining part of the program continuously. Sincere thanks to these two foundations and all of our donors who make this possible.
Huge thanks also to Eric and the team and we look forward to expanding this work in the coming year.
We are super excited to be beginning a three year formal partnership with Rosebud Secondary in 2022 and integrating this with our work with local primary schools, Eastbourne and Tootgarook.
Again with a focus on literacy and a phonics based approach, we will be working closely with these schools to address the underlying oral language issues in the early years, the learning and wellbeing in upper primary and literacy and engagement in early secondary.
We look forward to this work getting underway in the new year.
MPF is a Public Benevolent Institution with Deductible Gift Recipient Item 1 tax status. All donations are tax deductible. As all operational costs are covered by the George Hicks Foundation, 100% of donations are distributed as community grants.