Ashbury learns early

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Early Learning Through Play programs are starting to emerge across the Diocese, with one program at Ashbury already seeing strong participation within the church and the community.

St Matthew’s, Ashbury has a long-term playgroup aimed at preschoolers, but a strong desire within the church to better connect and support migrants in the area led last year to them planning and preparing a rebooted playgroup, in partnership with Anglicare, that would achieve that aim. 

“We’ve got a number of people here who have been interested in helping migrants arriving in the area,” says the parish’s children’s minister and group co-ordinator, Annemarie Rivers. “We also had a well-established playgroup that was ready for revitalisation and a new phase of growth, so talking to people at Anglicare brought up the prospect of doing an ELTP, but also pairing it with an ESL program and actually approaching it as a two-part program.”

This new group is still quite young – up and running for only a month – but new faces are already joining from outside the church community. A key feature is that while children are engaged with free play and specially designed activities, parents are able to join the church’s parallel ESL class. For the last section of a typical morning, the parents and children come together for a Bible lesson and some singing.

“We’ve designed the program in such a way that ELTP and ESL are linked,” Mrs Rivers says. “So, today’s theme was ‘tradies’ – we had some box building and painting earlier, and that is the same theme for the ESL class today. The idea is that the parents will have the same words that their kids are learning and they might be able to practice them with their children.”

The playgroup’s use of Anglicare’s ELTP principles means it focuses not just on community building and creating relationships between migrants and church members, but also on actively preparing children for the transition into Australia’s school system. 

The parish co-ordinator for ELTP at Anglicare, Roberta Perkins, says the approach in working with parishes to develop such programs is very much done on a case-by-case basis.

“This was a case of supporting an existing playgroup to be more migrant-friendly and to specifically be cross-cultural in outlook,” she says.

“The process was like a consultation and it was important to us to fashion a program that was specific to Ashbury... each parish has its own strengths and goals.”

There are currently two ELTP programs in the Diocese with a third due to begin in Term 2. In addition, many churches across the Diocese run similar playgroups, although these don’t specifically use Anglicare’s ELTP principles.


F​eature photo: Plenty to learn while having fun: one of the young participants in the Early Learning Through Play group. 



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