As a community, we are once again starting to think about getting our personal and professional lives back to what will be our ‘new normal’ as we see the vaccination rates across Australia steadily rising; COVID-19 diagnosis stabilising; and the various States and Territories starting to lift restrictions and lockdowns.
The Delta COVID-19 strain has been much more difficult for us and the communities we live and work in, than the 2020 experience. This year with the emergence of the COVID Delta strain, we have seen more unrest; more misinformation; more decisions to make; longer lockdowns; increasing anxiety about the seriousness of the Delta strain and its rapid spread; the fact that younger adults and children are able to contract it; and lots of information and misinformation in the media and on social media about the various COVID vaccines.
The wellbeing of our children, families and staff has been a number one priority for KU. Public Health Orders require all Early Childhood Education staff be double vaccinated in NSW by 8 November 2021, in VIC and ACT by 29 November 2021, and in QLD from 23 January 2022. To achieve full compliance, we have supported our staff to get vaccinated during work hours.
As a provider of essential services, KU’s 130 services across NSW, VIC, QLD and ACT have remained opened with few exceptions. Child Care Subsidy gap fees were waived for families in CCS services and the unfunded fees for families in NSW preschools during closedown periods because of a positive COVID case in services. We have adapted strong operational plans and we are working closely with families to promote ongoing engagement, even when children were learning from home.
KU has also remained engaged with all levels of Government to influence policy, funding and support during this challenging time. KU joined members of the NSW Early Childhood Educators (ECE) Advisory Group in mid-August to urge the NSW Government to provide clearer directions, advice and support for ECE services to remain safely open.
As restrictions continue to ease, we are pleased to be welcoming families back into our services, and to see children enjoying the company of their peers once again, in play and learning.
A series of wonderful 125 year anniversary celebrations taking place across KU’s 130 services over these last months have been adapted to be online or COVID safe. We are truly inspired by the many and varied acts of kindness, community giving, environmental activities, and innovative ways in which our services have celebrated 125 years.
Below are some of the unique and special ways our services have been celebrating 125 years. We hope you enjoy these highlights that children across KU services have participated in as part of our 125 year anniversary celebrations.
KU Sutherland has celebrated the 125th anniversary of KU by collecting donations for the Dandelion Support Network, a local not-for-profit organisation that supports children and families in need. Families from the preschool donated new and recycled nursery items for babies and children in need including nappy bags, clothing, linen packs and toys, reaching well above their goal of 125 donations.
KU Rydalmere will be celebrating KU’s 125th anniversary by aiming to collect 125 food items to donate to Nova Life Church. The church’s community food service provides free emergency food packages for anyone facing food insecurity. The local community is invited to support the initiative by donating dried and tinned food items at the preschool’s Street Library.
The children at KU Heathcote have been establishing a vegetable garden to support sustainable practice. To celebrate 125 years of education at KU, the preschool has aimed to grow 125 plants in their garden which will be used to feed the preschool’s animals, support healthy eating through cooking experiences and using the scraps in their worm farm. The children who have been learning from home recently have also been able to participate by growing their own seedlings at home that will be ready to plant once they return to preschool.
Alfred Child Care Centre has celebrated KU’s 125th anniversary by donating over 125 items of clothing and planting 125 seeds and seedlings into their garden. “Our families were invited to bring, take or swap any children’s clothing that they no longer had a use for, with the leftover clothing donated to the charity St Kilda Mums to further give life to the clothing,” said Alfred Director, Yoon-Hee Cha. “These activities have contributed to the children broadening their understanding of the world in which we live and how to contribute through projects. They will be able to develop a better awareness of the impact of human activity on environments and on other people.”
KU Figtree has celebrated KU’s 125th anniversary by supporting the Green Connect care package project. “The Green Connect Farm engages with community, growing organic and free-range foods. One of their aims is to teach and inspire people to reduce waste and grow fair food for themselves. When we heard about the care packages that Green Connect have been organising for families doing it tough during the lockdown, we knew that our preschool community would love to help,” said KU Figtree Directors, Elena Santarelli and Cheryl Collinson-Smith.
To celebrate KU turning 125, KU Killarney Heights Preschool painted 125 rocks. The rocks will be taken and hidden in the local community so families can find them when walking around the community. The rocks that are found can either be kept or rehidden for others to find. The idea was shared by a family member and the preschool thought it would be a great way for everyone to keep connected with families and friends who are not currently attending preschool. When families find rocks, they are invited to share their discovery on Storypark. The rocks were painted by children and educators at the preschool and children who are currently at home were invited to paint the rocks at home and drop them back at the preschool letterbox to add to the collection.
You can read more stories of inspiring 125 year activities that have taken place across KU services by clicking here.
In July we launched our 125 years online shop, featuring products that celebrate 125 years of KU. The store features special edition 125 year t-shirts for adults and children, 125 year tattoos and our coffee table book ‘As the Twig Bends’. View the range here.
Do you have a KU story you would be keen to share? Email us today. We’d love to hear from you.
If you would like to know more about how KU have been celebrating 125 years, watch a special video message from Christine Legg, CEO, and read more about our history as well as stories from KU Alumni, visit the 125 years page on the KU website.
Natalie Grenfell, General Manager Inclusion Programs, oversees a broad range of programs and services supporting the inclusion of all children in early childhood environments that are separate to the inclusion of children into our preschool, long day care and outside school care services. Below we share some of KU’s social impact programs that Natalie’s teams are supporting for the inclusion of children from disadvantaged and diverse cultural backgrounds, children with disabilities, and children suffering from trauma.
KU’s Allied Health Program includes two distinct services to ensure children receive health supports they need to get a good start in their early years of education. These services were essentially created to provide access to allied health professionals for families at critical times in their child’s development.
As such, KU now employs a range of allied health professionals, including Speech Pathologists, Occupational Therapists, Psychologists, and therapist trained in the Early Start Denver Model (ESDM). These teams deliver therapies through a clinic-based integrated service model and via an outreach program.
KU’s Allied Health Clinics currently operate at KU Ashmont in Wagga Wagga and KU Sutherland in Sydney, with two others soon to open in 2022 at KU’s two new services in Victoria, KU Maidstone and KU Dianella. What we have learned is that there is an incredible shortage of allied health services in some regional and remote areas, leaving gaps in health care that we can now help address with these clinics based within KU services. Our allied health professionals are providing support for families with NDIS or Medicare plans as well as for those who pay fees directly. Children attending KU services and from the surrounding area can access these essential services. (See also Sarah Stirton’s story below.)
KU’s family centred services, delivered by our allied health professionals, provides early intervention and support for children with additional needs in both a clinic and play based environment. KU Stepping Stones at Airds (Campbelltown) is a licensed preschool program operating within a dedicated building and with expanded services to other regions. The KU Starting Points Macarthur in the Campbelltown and Cobbitty regions of South West Sydney has now been operating in its own premises for over 20 years. KU Starting Points at Penrith is an extension of the allied health component. KU works to strengthen these services with the delivery of allied health supports in school settings, playgroups and in family homes, commonly accessed through NDIS.
From KU’s beginnings, social impact programs that support the inclusion of all children in early education and care has been a key focus in Making the KU Difference. Alongside KU’s self-funded programs, we also deliver inclusion services with government and community agencies. To demonstrate these programs, here are two of the many services KU delivers.
KU manages 15 Supported Playgroups operating in schools and community centres, in the Newcastle and Sydney’s inner west regions. We work together with vulnerable families that need some extra support or parenting advice. Supports are delivered by our early education team, family workers and paediatric allied health professionals, such as speech pathologists. This is part of KU’s service provision with the NSW Department of Communities and Justice.
Steps to Starting School is based in the Newcastle region where we work in partnership with The Smith Family to support vulnerable families in the important transition for children between home and school. Children become engaged in early education and have access to psychologists and other allied health professionals.
These are just some of the social impact programs being delivery by KU’s Inclusion Program team. If you would like more information, please visit https://www.ku.com.au/childcare/about or email us at email@example.com.
Inspired by a nutrition program initiated by KU Macquarie Fields Preschool, KU is proud to announce the launch of its new five-part video series, aimed to get children and parents participating together in creating healthy food options.
This series of Food for Life videos, funded by the KU Marcia Burgess Foundation, have been developed as a resource to offer practical, affordable and nutritional advice to KU families.
The presenter of the video series, Chef Charlotte Patterson, provides practical ideas and information to families that will help young children develop an interest in fresh, seasonal foods and support and encourage the regular eating of a variety of nutritious foods every day.
The five videos available for KU families enrolled in our services includes information on:
If you would like to know more about these inspirational resources, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you’re interested in supporting KU’s delivery of programs that have a positive social impact for children and families, you can help make The KU Difference with a gift to the KU Marcia Burgess Foundation.
Another area KU is looking to expand over the coming years is this KU Alumni network. What makes KU special is the relationships between our children, families, staff and communities. We’d like to maintain these close connections after families leave KU and welcome them into the KU Alumni group, in order to continue to foster a greater and even more connected KU community.