Each year, up to 10 per cent of Carinity Education Southside’s student population are young mothers. For most of the school’s 25-year history, a purpose-built childcare service has operated on the school grounds.
Search Light Early Learning Centre has enabled young mothers to access free, quality childcare while continuing their education.
After Justine Hopkins graduated from Year 12 at Southside she studied at TAFE then worked in hospitality and youth work. Justine believes her achievements would not have been possible if not for Search Light Early Learning Centre.
“Being a young adult with young children, studying without the support of the creche would have been hard for me. When the school said they could facilitate the care of my little ones at the creche, I had access to the children being minded and me getting an education,” Justine said.
Jacqui Clevens said the care her children received at the early learning centre while she was studying at Southside was pivotal to her graduating from school.
“I went to Southside before becoming a young mum, so I knew they had great supportive teachers and staff. Having the creche there to look after my babies after they were born was just amazing. It was another reason that I was able to graduate,” Jacqui said.
As well as caring for babies and toddlers, Search Light Early Learning Centre offers support programs for Southside students who are young mums. This includes parenting strategies; clinic nurse; first aid; health and nutrition advice; music and reading for children; and water safety and swimming lessons.
Sue Chapman from Search Light Inc. said the early learning centre is funded by two Australian Government agencies, the Child Care Community Fund and the Families and Communities Program.
“All members of the Search Light Inc. management committee are volunteers and our long-standing partnership with Carinity Education Southside has supported many young women to complete their secondary education while pregnant and parenting,” Sue said.
“We are always very grateful for our partnership with Carinity as without their support we would not be able to offer many of the additional support services that we do.”
Carinity Education Southside Principal, Leann Faint, paid tribute to the Search Light Early Learning Centre volunteers who established and continue to operate the early learning centre which has supported hundreds of young mothers.
“Each year young women who never imagined they could achieve at school graduate from Southside with their young child or children by her side. This could not be possible without Search Light,” Leann said.
“They are valued partners who journey with students as they aspire to and achieve their educational dreams. They are deeply committed and passionate about education for these girls and improving the prospects for both mums and babies.”