Thrive by 5: Synthesis Report Executive Summary - page 2

Using the Change Lab approach, the
Thrive by Five
core
team convened 40 stakeholder interviews with the goal
of hearing from formal and informal leaders related to
Calgary’s ECD system in order to gain a picture of the
current reality. Interviews were intended to explore the
question:
“How can all of us ensure that all children in
Calgary grow, learn and thrive by the age of 5?”
Based
on a synthesis of these interviews, the following are the
key themes that were identified and highlights of the
discussions that took place:
1. FOCUS ON THE COMMUNITY
Although respondents held varying definitions about
what constitutes a community, most emphasized that
“the community”
has an important role to play in ECD.
In terms of the geographic community, respondents
discussed the need for communities to be designed with
children in mind. However,
“community”
was discussed
as much more than the physical space in which families
reside, but rather it includes the individuals who surround
the family. Respondents noted that the community plays
a vital role in a child’s development:
“A sense of ‘local’
community is important for the early years.”
Community hubs were cited as a means of providing
community-based support for families and parents.
However, there was no agreement over what hubs should
look like, for example, some people saw them as being
geographically located while others focused more on the
cultural component. In addition, respondents differed
over the level of programming that should be in place in
community hubs.
2. THE FAMILY IS THE BACK BONE OF OUR
COMMUNITY
Strong communities were described as being essential
to support families and children. In order for this to
occur, respondents felt that it is necessary to create
a child-friendly city. While respondents held varying
views around how child friendly Calgary is, they all
noted that having a child-centric society is important in
order to connect children and the family with the larger
community. For example, respondents noted that since
all parents require a level of parenting assistance, there
is a need to ensure that both education and services
are widely available and accessible in the community. A
paradox around parenting education was identified by
some respondents who indicated that while there is an
abundance of information available for parents; parents
are either unable or unwilling to access this information
due to a number of barriers. Normalising the process of
accessing parenting information was the focus of much
of this discussion.
3. FOCUSING ON EDUCATION IN THE EARLY YEARS
Respondents also spoke about daycares, preschool and
kindergarten, and highlighted what is most needed
and what should be considered when looking at what
children and families need. First, they stated that
affordable, accessible and sustainable daycares and
preschools are all essential. Respondents also spoke of
the need for standardized quality education with the
understanding that flexibility is also required.
One area that has seen increasing professional standards
in recent years is the childcare profession, however,
many respondents commented that this field needs to
be further developed to the point where childcare staff
are seen as
“the experts and feel valued as such.”
An
overarching sentiment which was conveyed is the fact
that, though society claims to value children, this is not
reflected in the level of investment that is in place for
education in the early years. Therefore, there is a need
for an increased investment of finances, time and interest
in
“early years”
education.
4. DIVERSITY IN EARLY YEARS EDUCATION
a) School Readiness for Diverse Groups
The need for universal yet targeted programming
was indicated as being especially important when
considering diverse populations. With regard to the
immigrant population, respondents noted that as Calgary
continues to grow, the requirement for programming
that is attentive to the various needs and practices
of an increasingly diverse population is also rising.
Respondents noted, however, that increasing diversity
also brings with it some challenges, for example,
providing quality education in a culturally relevant
manner that also empowers various populations remains
an ongoing challenge.
b) Aboriginal Run Programs
The biggest challenge identified for implementing
effective programming for Aboriginal children is
addressing wider social issues, such as poverty and
isolation, while still providing an effective service.
Further, respondents noted that any service provided to
the Aboriginal population must be developed, driven
and delivered by the Aboriginal population, rather than
being an
“add-on”
to existing agencies or programs.
Securing the funding to develop and maintain Aboriginal
led programming was seen as an ongoing challenge for
Aboriginal service providers.
“I think an investment in full-day
kindergarten and an investment
in the early years is the place to
start.”
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