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Fraser Mustard Centre current projects

The Fraser Mustard Centre is currently undertaking several research projects.

Evaluation of trauma-informed practices in education

For children impacted by complex trauma, their experience at school can be punctuated by behavioural incidences, fearfulness and anxiousness, inability to concentrate, difficulty developing and maintaining relationships with peers and adults, struggles with emotional regulation, high rates of absenteeism, and school exclusion.

In South Australia, the Department for Education has made available a range of training options to support schools to improve their capacity to work with children who have been impacted by trauma.

The Telethon Kids Institute has been contracted to evaluate this initiative in partnership with the Department. The research team’s focus is to explore schools’ experiences of implementing trauma-informed practice and develop an understanding of how principles are applied, barriers to implementing practices, and factors that facilitate schools’ adoption of the approaches.

Evaluation of the Learning+ pilot program

Learning+ is a new online mathematics tutoring initiative being piloted by the South Australian Department for Education to accelerate student learning of the mathematics curriculum. Qualified teachers receive training, resources, and professional support to build their knowledge and skills to tutor students in the Australian Mathematics Curriculum. Students receive two 30-minute 1:1 tutoring sessions per week for 10 weeks, via an online platform, tailored to their individual learning needs.

The program is being piloted with Year 6 and 8 students in South Australian government schools. Through Social Ventures Australia, the South Australian Department for Education has contracted the Telethon Kids Institute to conduct an independent evaluation of the Learning+ pilot initiative.

Review of Inclusive Preschool Program

In South Australia, the Inclusive Preschool Program (IPP) provides a preschool education option for children with disability who require extensive adjustments to their learning environment and program. The IPP is staffed by educators and support staff who have specialised education, knowledge, and expertise.

The Telethon Kids Institute has been contracted to review the program in line with best practice guidance for inclusive education and to explore the experience of families in South Australia accessing this preschool option. The review examines how the program supports children, their families, and preschool staff.

Review of Universal Access funded Aboriginal Children with Hearing Impairment Support Program

In Australia, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children experience high rates of otitis media, with impacts of chronic infections on development and wellbeing.

The Universal Access funded Aboriginal Children with Hearing Impairment Support Program is a small program providing speech pathology input into the early literacy program for Aboriginal children in preschools located in areas with high incidence of otitis media. The program seeks to enrich preschool programs for all children to prevent children at risk of later hearing loss falling behind their peers in the early years of schooling.

The Telethon Kids Institute has been contracted to review the program model and the experience of preschools delivering the program in South Australia.

Electronic use in little ones

Very young children are being increasingly exposed to mobile technology, with families having little understanding of the potential impacts on their child’s physical, social, emotional, communication and cognitive development.

This study uses innovative methods including speech recognition technology to provide the first longitudinal objective evidence investigating the relationship between exposure to screens and mobile technology on different aspects of child development during the first 5 years.

The project aims to understand, not just the amount of time children are being exposed to screens throughout a day, but the type of content they are watching and understanding whether educational content may be of benefit to children’s development.

Language in little ones (LiLO)

LiLO is a longitudinal research study funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC).

The project aims to investigate the quality and quantity of language in the home environment during the early years. Through this research we aim to provide baseline data within an Australian context about the optimal amount of parent talk needed in order to support all domains of development during the first 5 years of life. This will help inform future interventions to improve language development and in turn, child health and overall development for Australian children.

In order to do this our research uses a small digital language recorder called Language Environment Analysis (LENA). LENA records the audio in the environment around the child and through specially designed software counts the number of words a child hears or speaks over the day.

Our research will involve approximately 450 families located across Adelaide and Port Pirie, South Australia, Bunbury, Western Australia and Gold Coast, Queensland. Data collection began when children were 6 months old, and they will be followed up once every six months until they start school.

Visit LiLO (Telethon Kids Institute) to find out more about the study and our latest published findings.

Taking a population health approach to supporting students' social and emotional wellbeing and mental health within the education system

Many children and adolescents experience mental health problems during their schooling years. While schools are well placed to implement early intervention and prevention programs, they face several challenges in doing so including understanding the scale and nature of problem.

The aim of the current project is to use information from the South Australian Wellbeing and Engagement Collection (WEC) to help understand:

  • what percentage of students have poor wellbeing
  • how does wellbeing differ based on student’s age, gender and the community they live in
  • how does wellbeing changes as children transition from primary school into high school
  • how is wellbeing related to academic achievement and school completion?

The project will help inform schools and the Department for Education about how best to support to social and emotional wellbeing and mental health of their students.

This project is funded through an NHMRC Partnership Grant to Dr Tess Gregory and Professor Sally Brinkman, in partnership with Mr David Engelhardt from the South Australian Department for Education.

On-entry to school measures

It is widely known how important it is for children to be supported as they transition to school. To do this well requires information about children’s learning and development and knowing when to give extra help.

The Department for Education is committed to use the best available evidence to aid students and put information in the hands of teachers.

Building on the learnings from the Australian Early Development Census (AEDC), this year an ‘on-entry to school’ tool will be field-tested in selected preschools and schools. Based on the findings of the field testing, a larger trial across sites is intended for 2017.

The aim is to put evidence about every child’s learning into the hands of families and educators. This will help to tell us which children are on track and are travelling fine and help us to follow up on additional learning needs in a consistent way across the transition to school. It is anticipated that this information will assist schools to create educational plans for children as they progress through school.

We are leading work with sites to develop the on-entry to school measures based on current evidence about:

  • children’s physical development
  • social and emotional skills
  • executive functioning
  • numeracy and literacy.

If you have comments or feedback, contact the centre on (08) 8207 2079 or at sally.brinkman [at] telethonkids.org.au. As part of the consultation process around this work, feedback will be sought more broadly across the department over the coming months.

Fraser Mustard Centre

Phone: 8207 2039
Email: info.frasermustardcentre [at] sa.gov.au