HIPPY program closes learning gap

AN international program that prepares pre-schoolers for school will be rolled out in Mildura by June.

Sunraysia Daily reported in August 2013 that the Brotherhood of St Laurence was seeking expressions of interest from Sunraysia services to run the federally funded program.

Yesterday, Mallee District Aboriginal Services confirmed it was successful in securing the Home Interaction Program for Parents and Youngsters, or HIPPY program.

The program costs about $3000 per child and, last year, 175 Australian communities expressed interest in running it.

Brotherhood of St Laurence general manager Rob Hudson said that the federal government whittled that number down to 30.

Then, after visiting the 30 communities, Mildura was chosen among 25 new locations to receive the program in 2014 and 2015.

The two-year home based tutoring program is designed to work with parents in preparing three and four-year-olds for primary school.

MDAS early years manager Danielle Dougherty said her organisation had signed a service agreement and was now looking to recruit a co-ordinator.

The next step after that was to recruit 25 families to take part in its inaugural year.

Mrs Dougherty said HIPPY was an important step towards closing the gap on reading, writing and numeracy outcomes for Koori children.

“This program is very significant,” she said.

“For indigenous children, we have a barrier to engaging with school and that could be that families have not had a great experience with the education system.

“Or it could be that maybe there’s trauma in the family which makes it difficult to prepare children for school.”

Mrs Dougherty said the program would attempt to address those issues, at home and within a group environment.

“We will have two tutors who will deliver the program to families,” she said.

“There’s a home component and a group-based component, with two hours a week at home and two hours at school.

“HIPPY is designed to help parents feel more confident to go into their child’s school and to help their child at home with homework.

“It’s about making the parents feel that they are still the most important person in their child’s education.”

Mrs Dougherty said it was hoped a co-ordinator would be appointed by April, with the program to start in June.

She said people could call MDAS on 5018 4100 or visit www.hippyaustralia.org.au for more information.

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