In 1997, Kelston cluster school principals met to discuss how they might better engage with local families and support parents. The principals believed that in order to make a difference in learning outcomes, they needed to be engaging with families as early as possible. They wanted to create an education system in the Kelston community that helped families from the time children were born until they left school.

“We had the kids at school, so we had a captive audience,” says Darren Smith, Principal of St Leonards Road School. “What we didn't have sometimes were the families at school - we didn't have them engaged.”

Based on community feedback, parenting support was also identified as a real need in the community. Home/school liaison initiatives were put in place, and then, following discussions with Dame Lesley Max and HIPPY national director, Jane Hall, Darren Smith and the Kelston principals helped establish HIPPY in Kelston in 1998.

Darren believes HIPPY has helped parents understand they have an important role to play throughout their children's education and he credits the programme with “empowering” the community.

Principal Darren Smith with Lynda Durbin, HIPPY Kelston

“We've gone from a community that sent their children to school because that's what they had to do, to one that sends their children to education facilities they're well informed about,” says Darren.

“Since HIPPY has been here, people have higher expectations about what they want. They have a better knowledge of what's required to support their children, they're not prepared to settle for second best and they won't allow their kids to attend a school where it's not meeting their kids' needs.”

While the HIPPY programme was operating well, the area still lacked affordable pre-school education.

Darren remembers visiting Papakura Family Service Centre, based at Kelvin Rd School. He was impressed with what he saw - a centre based on the same site as a school, offering not only HIPPY and other support services for the local community, but also an early learning centre. Darren realised what was operating at Kelvin Road was just what Kelston needed too.

Norma NandIn 2000 the Kelston Community Trust was formed with a vision to establish an early learning centre alongside HIPPY.

With support from the Ministry of Education, a centre was built on land adjacent to St Leonards Road School. The facility has been home to both the Kelston Early Childhood Centre and the Kelston HIPPY programme since 2003, providing complementary services for the children and families in the Kelston area.

Kelston HIPPY Coordinator, Lynda Durbin, finds families through door knocking for the HIPPY programme and often refers them to the centre if the children aren't attending any pre-school. Likewise, families who enrol their children in the Early Learning Centre are often introduced to HIPPY as well.

Lynda says, “HIPPY has now been operating for 21 years in the Kelston community and continues to make a difference for the families who enrol on our programme. The evaluation study done at St Leonards Rd School in 2016 reinforces that children who do HIPPY continue to thrive at school, even five years on.
At our 20-year anniversary celebration, we had 18 previous tutors attend from 2001 and they gave accounts on how HIPPY changed their lives. Many went on to tertiary study and now work in the education field.”