The ‘Keeping Connected to KU’ resource emerged through the necessity for KU services to maintain their strong relationship with families during early lockdown and maintaining connection with families in the disruptive and worrying period of early social distancing. It provided information that could be shared with families, either in response to a question, through their regular newsletter or as a community post or email. A second edition extended on this, sharing strategies different services had implemented to nurture relationships with families and support children’s quality learning experiences at home.
Ideas emerged through discussion of service needs and other fact sheets were produced to support the orientation of children commencing in the following year. Traditional group orientation and pre-enrolment visits were not practical, so tips were provided on how to make a video tour, hold orientation meetings online and use the Storypark platform to share information about the service to support families’ familiarisation and the transition of children to the service.
The use of technology and online approaches were applied to lessen the impact of inaccessibility and these timely resources were well received as services were considering meaningful ways to continue this vital connection and to help families engage actively in their child’s learning.
In addition, the Education Support Team produced a booklet titled ‘This is a story about COVID-19’. The booklet was written and produced to help and support children to understand COVID-19, including the potential impact on their family, the importance of hand washing and how to manage changes that occurred as a result of the virus.
It was designed with children’s drawings on almost every page, depicting their understanding of COVID-19, so that family members and educators could read it to children. The drawings were created by children attending KU services during the pandemic. They show children’s interpretations of measures families and educators took to keep everyone as safe as possible. When reading the story, the drawings helped families and educators discuss the text with children. The booklet was popular amongst families as it helped them communicate the impact of COVID-19 to their children in ways that children could understand.
The COVID-19 pandemic presented a range of unusual issues for children such as lockdowns, parents and carers working entirely from home, increased need to wash and sanitise hands, the introduction of face masks, and a need to become familiar with a new learning environment when unable to physically visit their service. The KU Sector Capacity Building Team developed a range of social stories to build educator capacity to support children through the unprecedented experiences associated with COVID-19. Social stories are customised explanatory narratives developed to support children to understand specific social situations. These resources were also shared more widely through the KU intranet and also the KU website. All social stories developed by the KU Sector Capacity Building Program were also translated into a range of community languages (Arabic, Bangla, Chinese, Farsi/Dari, Korean, Sinhala, Swahili, Urdu and Vietnamese) by bilingual KU AMEP team members in order to enable access by children for whom English is not their first language. Many preschools added photos of their own preschool and team members and sent the KU “I’m going to preschool” social story to all families of children starting preschool in 2021 as an innovative way of familiarising children with the preschool setting during COVID-19 restrictions on orientation visits.