HealthWISE is broadening its horizons with the release of a new e-learning course for early childhood educators, designed to give children a step up before they begin school.
Created by speech pathologists, 'Sounds good to me' (SGTM) focuses on phonological awareness, a range of pre-literacy skills proven to help children learn to read.
The course officially launched on the website www.soundsgoodtome.com.au on Sunday, just in time for the kick off of term three in NSW schools.
Speech pathologist and HealthWISE integrated care manager Anne Williams was first inspired to create SGTM over five years ago.
"I was speaking to a teacher in Narrabri and it was her job to transition children from preschool into school. She worked with children at risk of educational disadvantage and learning difficulties," Anne said.
"She had noticed that a lot of these kids didn't have the skills they needed to learn to read and so fell quickly behind when they started school. And I thought 'we can do something about this.'"
Anne realised that if she could pass on her expertise to childhood educators, the children would be better prepared for school.
Inverell speech pathologist Linda Foskey joined the team, and a 2014 trial in four childcare centres across the region indicated that children who undertook the program improved in pre-literacy skills more than those who did not.
"We've been running face to face workshops in the New England North West ever since, and I wanted to take it a bit further and reach a bigger audience," Anne said.
Nurruby Children's Services managing director Prue Jamieson is pleased to see the digital version come to life. The centre has been using Sounds good to me since 2014.
"I have seen big improvement in the skills and confidence of the educators in my team, with the program now embedded in all areas of our curriculum. The educators enjoy the phonological awareness play-based activities and the program is easy to implement," she said.
"It is satisfying to send our pre-schoolers off to 'big school' with the skills they need to learn to read."
For those looking for a sneak peak of the program, Anne is offering a free live webinar during the NSW Education Week August 3-7.
Registration details will be available on the website.
The launch of Sounds good to me comes at a vital time for education in Australia, as a nationwide survey of over 2,100 teachers released by Pivot Professional Learning and Education Perfect this month found that COVID-19 has widened the gap for those in disadvantaged communities.
Among the recommendations from researchers is prioritising professional development for teachers.
"By working with children in these early years, we're not only getting them ready for school and learning to read, we're actually influencing their ability to be healthy adults. People who are literate and better educated are more likely to be healthier than those who aren't," Anne said.
"It's such an important part of a child's life and we think early childhood educators are well placed to assist. This program is really working at the coalface and upskilling those educators."
Sounds good to me includes hours of training in a series of short, workshop style videos, featuring children undertaking the program activities.
Participants will have access to digital resources as well as a physical resource kit containing a detailed program guide, USB, a 'full-body listening' poster, picture prompt cards and score sheets for measuring the children's progress.
Speech pathologists are available for consultation calls to support members. To purchase or learn more, visit www.soundsgoodtome.com.au.