Language program lauded for success with major award

Laura GrubisaGreat Southern Herald

The Kindergarten Oral Language Program operates at 13 Great Southern schools and has won the YMCA Program of Excellence award for 2016.

The groundbreaking Great Southern speech therapy program was designed to help kinder-garten children before they start full-time school.

The program was first implemented four years ago and has given hundreds of local children a better start to education.

One school improved from less than one-quarter of students achieving the language benchmark to 100 per cent of students achieving it.

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Local WA Country Health Service staff realised they needed a purpose-designed program to help children at school as opposed to a clinic setting.

“KOLP operates across the whole kindergarten class in schools with significant numbers of refugee, culturally and linguistically diverse and Aboriginal students,” WACHS senior speech pathologist Jan Batchelor said.

“Students carry out goal-based activities that target specific language skills that you’d expect them to develop in kindergarten — such as increasing vocabulary and developing phono-logical awareness.

“The sessions are jointly planned and carried out by classroom teachers, education and therapy assistants and speech pathologists.”

Between 160 and 180 students participate each year at schools within the shires of Katanning, Kojonup, Broomehill-Tambellup, Gnowangerup, Woodanilling and Kent.

“All schools have seen a marked improvement in the number of children achieving language benchmarks,” Ms Batchelor said. “One school saw a jump from only 22 per cent of children reaching the language benchmark before the program to all of them reaching it following KOLP intervention.”

YMCA WA chief executive Ross Kyrwood said the award was a well-deserved acknowledgement for the program.

“Not only does (KOLP) focus on achieving conventional literacy outcomes, social development and wellbeing, the program also benefits the skills of early childhood teachers by enabling them to build capacity within schools.”

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