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Teachers trucking on

ANNA LOREN
Last updated 05:00 25/07/2013
Colleen Brown and Karen Shields
REVVING UP: Colleen Brown and Karen Shields have taken their quest to get kids into pre-school on the road.

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A humble Isuzu could be a "circuit-breaker" for the cycle of poverty and unemployment in some parts of South Auckland, educators say.

Counties Manukau Kindergarten Association has launched the Play Truck, a mobile early childhood education centre, in a bid to change the way people think and feel about pre-school.

The vehicle parks in various spots around Manurewa and Takanini and is open to all parents and kids under the age of 5.

The scheme, which is the first of its kind in the country, aims to get children who are not enrolled attending playcentre, kindy or kohanga reo.

It's designed to build positive relationships between educators, kids and parents, association general manager Karen Shields says.

"That will carry on all the way to school - it sets them up for life. We can work together to give the children a love of learning."

Just 84.5 per cent of children in Manurewa and 88.9 per cent of kids in Papakura have had some form of early childhood education before starting school.

The Ministry of Education has set a nationwide target of 98 per cent by 2016.

And failure to attend pre-school has dire consequences for the youngsters.

Early childhood education taskforce chairwoman Colleen Brown says children who don't go struggle to do the simplest tasks - like hold a pencil, hang up a bag or sit on the mat - when they start school.

"They go from a household of two or three people to a class of 30 and they're just overwhelmed."

Papatoetoe West School principal Trevor Canute says the differences between children who have attended pre-school and those who have not are "immediately" obvious when they enrol. Kids who have no pre-school experience are at a "huge disadvantage", he says.

"They struggle to adapt to the disciplines and routines of school. Lack of concentration, an inability to follow even the simplest of instructions or even tears and tantrums are signs of little or no pre-school experience."

The Play Truck was launched in May after the kindergarten association secured $100,000 from the ministry.

It cost $60,000 to set up and the rest of the money is given in $10,000 chunks as it meets enrolment targets.

The aim is to get 40 kids enrolled at pre-school each year but Mrs Shields believes it has already achieved that after just two months.

The truck is kitted out with toys, Duffy books, art equipment, a toilet and portable fencing for creating safe outdoor play areas.

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It's also got the facilities for educators to sit down with parents, have a "cuppa" and chat about their pre-school options.

Many of those parents know little about New Zealand's education system and it takes a while to build the trust, Mrs Brown says.

"We make a lot of assumptions about what people understand about early childhood education. What I love is that this is a safe, non-threatening space."

Mrs Shields' dream is to have five Play Trucks operating in South Auckland.

PLAY DATES

The Play Truck will be at Te Matariki Clendon Library on August 5 from 9.30am-11am, Randwick Park Community House on August 6 from 9.30am-11am and Takanini School on August 8 from 10am-11.30am.

Call Counties Manukau Kindergarten Association on 299 8361 for more information. 

- Manukau Courier

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