Having pre-school teachers work hand-in-hand with educational therapists and social workers results in big gains for children from disadvantaged homes.
In the Circle of Care programme piloted by welfare organisation Care Corner and philanthropic group Lien Foundation, educational therapists and social workers were teamed up with pre-school teachers at two child care centres.
All 159 children at the two centres at Leng Kee and Admiralty run by Care Corner received a high quality pre-school education which included music and movement classes, field trips and literacy and numeracy programmes.
Children who faced various problems from learning needs to health and financial needs were identified early by the social workers and they and their families were given appropriate help, often at the centre itself.
It resulted in big gains in learning for the children. Not only did they attend pre-school more often, they also showed big jumps in their reading and numeracy skills.
The centres also ran talks and workshops for parents, resulting in them becoming more involved in their children's learning.
Care Corner and Lien Foundation officials who gave an update on the programme this morning said some children used to attend school for an average of only five days a month.
Now the average attendance has more than doubled to 12 days a month. Parents are also bringing their children to the centres on time, at 9am. Previously some would arrive in the afternoon, even as late as 4pm.
Early childhood expert Khoo Kim Choo who reviewed the curriculum and trained the teachers in areas such as multiple intelligences and play therapy said early identification of those with learning needs and providing them with educational therapy helped several children make significant progress in their learning.
She said some 24 children at the two centres received educational therapy over 50 sessions. At the start, most of them could read only a few simple words such as "I" and "me".
After more than six months of help, which included students from Wheelock College conducting reading and storytelling sessions, the children could read 40 words and could recognise the sounds that accompany the letters of the alphabet. Half of them could read a simple book.
The centres hold regular parent-teacher meetings. Before the programme started at Leng Kee, only one parent turned to meet her child's teacher. Last year, 25 parents attended the meeting.
She said Circle of Care takes a holistic view on issues like poor nutrition and neglect of the child, or the poor health and financial difficulties of parents, and addresses them. Early intervention means that these children will stand a chance of faring better in school and in life.