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05 JunEmbrace the change: in conversation with Melissa MacMaster from Glen Education

Posted on 05 Jun 2024

If you would like to share your journey or need any support planning for and implementing change, contact Leanne Rodriguez, Best Start Best Life Reform and Engagement Advisor membersolutions@elaa.org.au

By Leanne Rodriguez & Melissa MacMaster

During THRIVE in May Melissa MacMaster from Glen Education joined Leanne Rodriguez, ELAA’s Advisor for the Best Start Best Life (BSBL) Reform, on a panel to discuss the implementation of funded three-year-old kindergarten programs and preparations for the upcoming Pre-Prep rollout. This week, Leanne continued the conversation to learn more about Glen Education’s BSBL journey. 

Leanne: Can you share your BSBL reform journey so far, highlighting your key achievements.

Melissa: Glen Education fully implemented the three-year-old reforms seven years ahead of the government timeline. We have been offering three-year-old kindergarten to families in our community, gradually increasing from 5 to 7.5 hours of kindergarten a week, and then to a full 15 hours a week in 2024. 

A children enjoy painting
A young child focuses intently on their painting in a vibrant kindergarten classroom (Supplied: Melissa MacMaster, Glen Education)

 Our greatest achievement lies in how our people embrace change and see it as an opportunity to do things differently. This includes: 

  • implementing multi-age programs through an understanding and embracing of the diverse ways families live (not everyone has their ‘leisure time’ on weekends)
  • introducing team teaching by employing staff across as much of a five-day week as possible, rather than in traditional ‘groups.’  This promotes the benefits of team teaching, allowing children to learn from a variety of educators with different perspectives, passion areas and teaching styles
  • introduced Saturday Kindergarten, which enables us to offer the full 15-hour three-year-old kindergarten, without impacting the number of children accessing four-year-old kinder programs. 

Leanne: What is the rationale behind the Saturday Kindergarten program?

Melissa: Introducing Saturday kindergarten as part of a 15-hour, 2-day offering for children is a perfect example of how we have responded to and accommodated the needs of the community. When families heard that kindergarten was free for children in both their first and second years of kindergarten, demand increased. We looked at ways to work within government policy to offer families what they wanted—now, when their child needed it, not later, when it was too late. 

Two children joyfully play in a wooden boat set amidst the natural surroundings of a bush kinder
Two children joyfully play in a wooden boat set amidst the natural surroundings of a kinder (Supplied: Melissa MacMaster, Glen Education)

Leanne: How did you engage with the community when implementing new changes?

Melissa: Aligned, timely messaging and consistent reassurance are crucial when communicating with the community. 

We engage with families in multiple ways, such as annual surveys, seeking feedback after the orientation and induction process, through informal conversations, and by working closely with our educational teams, who are face-to-face with families. We also collaborated closely with sector partners, particularly local councils, who often receive direct feedback from families as they are the first point of contact through the central registration scheme (CES). 

Leanne: Could you elaborate a bit more on how you implemented change management?

Melissa: Engaging the whole community in discussions that provided opportunities for the active exchange of ideas was critical to the successful implementation of the reforms. This encompassed communicating internally with all employees and families, and externally with key stakeholders such as local councils, DE, and prospective families. 

Seeking a variety of viewpoints and providing time for consideration enabled people to feel valued as part of the change. It was also essential that we regularly reiterated our intent and purpose in relation to change. For us, changes to our timetable offerings (multi-age programs, Saturday kindergarten) and employment (team teaching) were about advocacy—advocating for the rights of children to attend kindergarten now when they need it, and advocating for families by recognising that every family is unique with their own way of living. 

A young child focuses intently on her mud and stick creation, , immersed in creativity and exploration.
A young child focuses intently on her mud and sticks creation. (Supplied: Melissa MacMaster, Glen Education)

Our leaders played a critical role in bringing people on the journey of change, which both empowered and inspired the community to be part of the solution. We never underestimate the influence of an honest, adaptive leader who can change direction or admit error in response to feedback presenting an alternative viewpoint. People follow those they trust, especially in uncertain times. 

 

 

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