THE adage “it takes a village to raise a child” has been proven to work over the past 12 years as Hastings’ schools, kindergartens, service organisations and volunteers collaborate in the Linking Schools and Early Years partnership.
The service organisations – Good Shepherd Youth and family Services, Hastings Western Port Rotary Club, Western Port Catholic Parish, businesses, agencies and volunteers – adhere to the linking schools’ philosophy that children living in Hastings are the community’s joint responsibility.
Their aim is to develop and implement strategies to benefit all the area’s children.
Recently retired St Mary’s Primary School, Hastings principal Richard Mucha is adamant this “unique, whole town approach to education has enabled huge improvements in student outcomes to occur”: “Since 2009, Australian Early Development Census figures show that in the area of Language and Cognitive Development, student vulnerability in Hastings has been reduced by 19.1 per cent, compared to a 0.2 per cent increase in vulnerability for Victoria as a whole.”
The program is now starting in Somerville. Initially, in Term Two, it will comprise Somerville, St Brendan’s and Somerville Rise primary schools in the Reading for Life (R4L) program running concurrently with the Hastings R4L program.
About 85 pupils, mostly in grades 2-4, will take part. Psychologists from the firm Learning Links, who developed R4L, will pre-test pupils the schools have selected and train volunteers in the use of the R4L packs.
Volunteers will then work one-on-one with pupils for 15 one-hour sessions after which the psychologists will test the pupils again.
Mr Mucha said results for the eight years that R4L has been conducted in Hastings show an average improvement of seven months in sight words; an average of 12.37 per cent in improvement of knowledge of sounds; 8.44 per cent improvement in reading confidence; nine months improvement in reading accuracy; and, 8.7 months improvement in reading comprehension.
The R4L programs in Somerville and Hastings are run with 70 volunteers and the help of sponsors The Rali Foundation, The Mornington Peninsula Foundation, BlueScope Steel, The Coast Real Estate, Hastings Western Port Rotary Club, Somerville Tyabb Rotary Club, and Western Port Catholic Parish.