Strengthening communities through partnership

Issue: Volume 96, Number 21

Posted: 27 November 2017
Reference #: 1H9gWH

A new partnership has resulted in a much-needed ECE and care facility for the remote community in the Tekapo basin.

Lake Tekapo is an isolated rural community currently experiencing rapid development due to the growth of the tourism industry. This growth has resulted in an increasing local population who work in the farming, tourism and hospitality sectors, many of whom have young children unable to easily access essential services, including early childhood education (ECE).

Of the children enrolled in Lake Tekapo School over the last three years, 59 per cent had travelled at least 86 kilometres per day to access ECE, while rural-based whānau on outlying farms travelled further, up to 220 kilometres per day. Several families were unable or chose not to travel and did not receive formal ECE before school. Twenty per cent of children enrolled at Lake Tekapo School over the last three years have English as a second language (ESOL). At the time of surveying the preschool population of our community, 75 per cent of ESOL families were not accessing any ECE (November 2015).

A community consultation was held in March 2016 to assess the ECE needs in Lake Tekapo. The consultation demonstrated that there was a strong need for an ECE and care facility to provide a quality local and accessible service to those who live in the Tekapo basin.

The Lake Tekapo Bright Stars Trust was established to oversee this project, with cross-sector representation from our preschool, primary school, parents, local businesses, community parish and council community board. Establishing strong partnerships was the key to the project gaining the momentum and financial support we needed.

Building site

A feasibility study showed that the existing Guild Hall building did not meet the requirements for an ECE service but could be renovated to achieve these standards. The location of this building opposite Lake Tekapo School made it an ideal site for an ECE service. The landowner, the Mackenzie Co-operating Parish, was keen to see the land and building on the Aorangi Crescent site enhanced to better serve the needs of the community. The parish facilitated a long-term lease agreement with the Bright Stars Trust and intends to support the trust to provide ECE services from this site in the long term.

Delivery partner

The South Canterbury Kindergarten Association (SCKA) expressed interest in this project from the onset. Together with the Bright Stars Trust, they envisaged a partnership in which the education skills and experience of the Kindergarten Association would complement the community knowledge of the trust in order to achieve accreditation. The Bright Stars Trust project-managed and fundraised for the renovation project, working closely with the Ministry of Education to ensure that all requirements were met.

The SCKA worked hard to develop the operational structure of the kindergarten, compiling the policies and procedures required. The SCKA coordinated the interviews for the teaching staff. Representation from the Bright Stars Trust on the interview panel enabled the community to be a part of this process. As they move into the operational phase of the kindergarten service, the Bright Stars Trust and SCKA look forward to working closely together to ensure a strong ECE service that reflects their unique and special community.

Funding support

The Ministry of Education acknowledged the barriers of isolation and accessibility for ECE and is supporting this project through a Targeted Assistance for Participation (TAP) grant. This funding enabled the project to get started. The trust was also fortunate to receive significant grants from the Aoraki Foundation, the Community Trust of Mid and South Canterbury, Alpine Energy, the Mackenzie District Council, Lake Tekapo Promotions, Tekapo Community Board and the Lake Tekapo Lions Club.

The local business community has worked with the trust to organise community fundraising events and activities and has provided venues, staff, resources and funding to help make the project a success. Local building, landscaping and fencing contractors have ensured competitive quotes to reduce the cost of the project. Parents and community members have also been involved in various fundraising activities.

Benefits for all

The Lake Tekapo Bright Stars Centre was officially opened on 22 September 2017. A kindergarten service will operate from this site three days per week from term 4. The facility will also be utilised by the local playgroup, music and movement class, and other community groups.

Parents value the opportunity of a local service that will decrease the distance, time and money spent travelling to access ECE and be better able to reflect the values of our unique community. A local ECE will support the Lake Tekapo School roll and the transition to school will also be enhanced by a local facility. Local businesses support a Tekapo-based ECE service as this will encourage families to seek employment and remain here.

The Lake Tekapo Bright Stars Centre is a great example of a community working together in a strong partnership to support children and families.

Penny Wilson of the Bright Stars Trust, who also has children at the Lake Tekapo centre, says that the partnership model has really reaped rewards, for learners and their community.

“The Lake Tekapo Bright Stars Centre has increased the accessibility of early childhood education to our growing and diverse community. Reducing the travel time and distance has made a big impact on children and their families.

“Having a centre based in the heart of our community enables the service to meet the needs of our learners and to be a part of our family and community life. The teaching staff reflects that, in the two weeks since opening, the kindergarten has a real family feel. Being adjacent to Lake Tekapo School strengthens the links between these two education providers; it encourages a community approach to education and a seamless transition between ECE and school.

“The partnership model between the Lake Tekapo community and South Canterbury Kindergarten has strengthened the project. Our Memorandum of Understanding also links with the local playgroup and ensures that all users of the facility work together for the benefit of our tamariki and whānau.” 

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 9:00 am, 27 November 2017

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