StrongStart BC Early Learning Outreach Programs

Date came into force or revised

May 13, 2009

Status

Current

Policy statement

The purpose of a StrongStart BC Outreach Program is to provide high quality early learning for children not yet eligible for kindergarten, accompanied by a parent or caregiver, in communities where a StrongStart BC Early Learning Centre would not be a viable model. 

Like StrongStart BC early learning centres, StrongStart BC Outreach Programs are designed to support the success of children when they enter Kindergarten.

Rationale or purpose of policy

In sparsely populated rural or remote areas of British Columbia, attendance at StrongStart BC Early Learning Centres by families may be challenging due to travel time or lack of transportation. StrongStart BC Outreach Programs are designed to attract at-risk, vulnerable, and isolated families, and lower barriers to attending the program. The years between birth and school-age are a critical time in a child’s life, and these additional and concerted efforts are needed in many communities, especially in low socio-economic rural and remote areas.

Authority

Section 1 (1) of the School Act (PDF) provides a definition of early learning program.

Section 79.2(1)(d) of the School Act (PDF) indicates that a board must prepare an achievement contract with respect to early learning programs.

Section 86(5) of the School Act (PDF) indicates that a board may operate an early learning program with the prior agreement of the Minister.

Section 170.1(2)(e) of the School Act (PDF) allows the Minister to assign a personal education number to a child participating in an early learning program.

Section 171.4(3) of the School Act (PDF) allows outlines the appointment and duties of superintendent of achievement.

Policy in full

The purpose of a StrongStart BC Outreach Programs is to provide high quality early learning for children not yet eligible for kindergarten, accompanied by a parent or caregiver, in communities where a StrongStart BC Early Learning Centre would not be a viable model, based on the following criteria:

  • remoteness from a school that has a Centre, or is likely to have a Centre;
  • small number of preschool-aged children in the community; and 
  • limited access to early learning programs in the area, specifically rural or remote communities.

Like StrongStart BC Early Learning Centres, StrongStart BC Outreach Programs are designed to support the success of children when they enter Kindergarten.

StrongStart BC Outreach Programs should be designed and operated to meet the following standards:

Location:

  • In appropriate, available school space, preferably in schools offering Kindergarten, or other mutually-agreed upon locations approved by the Ministry of Education
  • In a minimum of two rural or remote communities in a school district
  • In communities with a small number of preschool-aged children 
  • In communities where no other early learning programs exist.

Operation:

  • Each outreach program location will be open 3-4 hours per day, at least one day per week or other mutually-agreed upon program schedule approved by the Ministry of Education.
  • Operate as per the school district’s school calendar, or throughout the calendar year. Parents/caregivers attend with their preschool-aged children at all times. 
  • Be free of charge for parents/caregivers attending with their preschool-aged children.

Programming:

  • Promote the following areas of children’s development: physical health and well-being, social and emotional development, language and cognitive development and the communication skills of preschool-aged children. 
  • Use the British Columbia Early Learning Framework and Understanding the British Columbia Early Learning Framework: From Theory to Practice to guide and evaluate the program. 
  • Offer family-friendly environments for parents/caregivers and opportunities for parents/caregivers to make connections. 
  • Provide opportunities for parents/caregivers to observe and practice activities that support early learning. 
  • Include the following activities: 
    • organized activities such as story time, music, singing; 
    • access to books, art materials, and puzzles; 
    • play activities and areas that promote creativity and exploration, including individual and group activities; 
    • movement and large muscle play activities; and 
    • healthy snacks that model healthy eating in keeping with the Guidelines for Food and Beverage Sales in BC Schools are found on the Ministry of Education’s Comprehensive School Health website.

Community:

  • Facilitator(s) running the program identify, contact, and attract all families in remote communities. Facilitators and school district staff should seek assistance of the local health authority to help them in locating children through birth records or other health records, and provide these families with information about the StrongStart BC Outreach Program. 
  • Demonstrate collaboration with the community to meet the unique needs of the neighbourhood. 
  • Provide opportunities for other service providers to connect with parents/caregivers and children in order to provide them with information and services (e.g. public health, libraries) 
  • Where possible, link parents/caregivers to services offered by health authorities, community agencies and other social service providers (e.g., early screening, libraries, English as A Second Language services, BC Family Resource Programs, child care services, referrals for children who may have developmental or other special needs). 
  • Link to and work in partnership with an approved StrongStart BC Early Learning Centre in the school district.

Additional requirements:

School districts should ensure the following:

  • The program is run by a certified Early Childhood Educator (ECE) with a current License to Practice or by a person actively enrolled in an approved ECE training program and mentored by an ECE with a current license to practice.
  • All facilitator(s) at the StrongStart BC Outreach Program have undergone and passed a Criminal Records Check. 
  • School Principals (or equivalent person in the host agency) are well-informed by school district staff about the goals of the StrongStart BC Outreach Program and are committed to welcoming and contributing to the effectiveness of the program. 
  • A parent, family member, or caregiver accompanies the child in the StrongStart BC Outreach Program at all times.  The service in the StrongStart BC Outreach Program is not designated child care.  
  • A risk management plan is in place for the centre. 
  • A StrongStart BC sign that meets the Ministry standards is posted in a location at the school, or mutually agreed-upon location, and is visible to families. 
  • The school district complies with "Communications Protocol Agreement" for StrongStart BC Outreach Programs between the Ministry of Education and School Districts for all graphics, news releases and announcements.

Procedures related to policy

School districts are responsible for creating and maintaining accurate StrongStart BC data and records.

School districts are required to ensure each child attending a StrongStart BC Outreach Program is assigned a Personal Education Number(PEN). PENs will be assigned to these children using the established PEN request process schools currently use.

School districts are required to use the British Columbia enterprise Student Information System (BCeSIS) to report enrolment and attendance data to the Province. To do this, school districts must collect enrolment and attendance information about the children attending the centre, including names, birthdates, and gender of children.

School districts are required to submit two reports per school year regarding enrolment of children at the centre(s), including the Personal Education Number (PEN) and attendance of each child. The Ministry extracts StrongStart BC attendance data from BCeSIS on the following dates:

  • January 10 (attendance for September through December); and 
  • July 10 (attendance for January though June).