Education and Arts

Ballarat Playgroup project recognised

Connecting Schools and Communities through Supported Playgroups in Schools project has won a prestigious award at Australian Catholic University (ACU).

The 2013 Vice‐Chancellor’s Award for Outstanding Community Engagement was announced yesterday. It recognised the project focus on strengthening community capacity in Ballarat by providing children and families with access to supported playgroups in five local primary schools.

'Connecting Schools' is an innovative community program conducted by ACU’s Faculty of Education and Arts at Ballarat campus and its many partners: the Catholic Education Office Ballarat, Ballarat City Council (Best Start), Playgroup Victoria, the Victorian Department of Education and Early Childhood Development, and five regional primary schools from both State and Catholic sectors.

ACU Vice Chancellor Professor Greg Craven announced the awards.

He said that Dr Karen McLean,Lecturer in Education/Curriculum from the Faculty of Education at Ballarat Campus, was to be applauded as a leading contributor to the success of 'Connecting Schools.' She facilitated the development of the project and research into its effectiveness, liaising with the many partners involved, building community pride in the project, and enabling the supported playgroup concept to spread to other schools in Ballarat, with an increase in attendance numbers and regularity of attendance.

Since its inception in 2011, 'Connecting Schools' has developed and strengthened the partnership of the University, state and local government bodies, schools and community agencies. Dr McLean’s involvement has included research into the effects of supported playgroups that will continue in 2014. Her work enables the partnership to evaluate its achievements formally, and has strengthened the already exceptional community co‐operation and capacity in Ballarat. Research findings will have the potential to underpin the replication of Connecting Schools in other regions in Victoria.

'Connecting Schools' aligns closely with ACU’s mission and identity, working collaboratively with all stakeholders to serve the common good by supporting families in marginalised and disadvantaged communities. It offers assistance with parenting, education and service provision, and builds a strong sense of community connection. In addition, it contributes to the preparation of highly competent ACU graduates through their experience of leadership, of working with families, and of the social and ethical dimensions of their lives as professionals in the community.

Dr McLean was also awarded the 2012 ACU Citation for Outstanding Contribution to Student Learning.