The Circle of Care (COC) programme, launched four years ago at two pre-schools, has shown how early and holistic intervention can change the outcomes for children from disadvantaged homes.
The scheme, piloted by philanthropic group Lien Foundation and welfare organisation Care Corner, brings together teachers, social workers and education therapists to identify the root causes of a child's difficulties and provide help on different fronts. There is no need for beneficiaries to approach different agencies. The scheme raised school attendance rates for the children and saw them improve their reading and numeracy skills.
Now the circle has been widened to primary schools. The children's pre-school teachers and social workers will join hands with those from their primary schools to support them until they reach Primary 3. All the children have progress reports, which will be shared with the primary schools.
The extension of COC to primary schools ensures continuity of support and builds on the children's hard-won progress made in pre-schools.
As COC officials have pointed out, new teachers may not be aware of a child's circumstances and are not able to offer help until a problem crops up. They have seen cases of children making good progress, only to slide back when they enter Primary 1.
Nor are the families forgotten. The progress reports also give information on how the parents can be helped to support their children's learning at home.
More primary schools should be roped into the scheme next year, and school officials must ensure that the children and their families continue to receive support on many fronts.
As Lien Foundation chief executive Lee Poh Wah pointed out, COC has been successful because it focused not just on the child, but also the family.
Research shows that the quality of the nurturing environment at home makes a difference. There must be buy-in from parents for such initiatives to succeed. Only then can we change the equation for these children who lost out in the lottery of life.