School readiness for Aboriginal children with disability

SPRC Newsletter Number 113, online edition

Working with Aboriginal children with a disability and/or developmental delay and their families to support the children’s school readiness was the goal of a program delivered by Northcott, a disability service provider organisation based in Sydney. Northcott evaluated this program in partnership with SPRC, using participatory methods to increase the research capacity of Northcott staff. The interim report for the evaluation contained implications for the remainder of the program and for similar programs.

Northcott delivered the school readiness program in one metropolitan and one rural site in NSW. It provided inclusive playgroups; preschool and school based support; family information, training and support; information and training for preschool and school teachers; and therapy for children. The program was funded by Ageing, Disability and Home Care (ADHC), Department of Family and Community Services NSW. The evaluation used interviews and program data.

Implications for future programs include:

  •  The program needed a set up time of more than one year to build trust within communities, and it would have benefited from service delivery longer than one and a half years to achieve sustainable outcomes.
  •  Successfully engaging Aboriginal families in the program required: time to build trust with the families and communities; identifying support for general needs of the family in addition to the child’s disability needs; and achieving some short-term goals.
  •  Collaboration with schools and preschools was facilitated by teaching staff who had experience with supporting children with a disability, and by good internal communication within schools and preschools.
  •  Partnerships with other local service providers were easier to establish in locations where Northcott was well known and staff had personal connections in the community.
  •  In the rural program site, staff recruitment and retention were difficult, travelling took considerable proportions of staff time, and a shortage of health specialist and therapy services impeded program implementation.
  •  The participatory action research methodology used in the evaluation gave Northcott staff the opportunity to gain research and evaluation experience and to improve the program as it progressed.

The final report will be available in early 2014.

Download the interim report (PDF)