Neuroscience training to help children flourish

| August 31, 2023

Professionals working with children and young people will be offered training in brain science in an Australia-first initiative between The University of Queensland (UQ) and the Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth (ARACY) through the Thriving Queensland Kids Partnership (TQKP).

Thriving Kids Brain Builders is a neuroscience translation initiative being developed with UQ’s Queensland Brain Institute (QBI) for people working across the health, education, social and community services, justice and housing sectors.

QBI Laureate Fellow Professor Karen Thorpe said the initiative aimed to help build a stronger and more equitable early childhood education and care workforce.

“UQ has world-leading neuroscience experts who are motivated to share knowledge with professionals working with children in the crucial early years,” Professor Thorpe said.

“The experiences and environments young children encounter have a profound impact on their brain development.

“This partnership will bridge the gap between research and practical application, ensuring all children have access to the support they need to develop and flourish.

“We are excited to collaborate with partners from diverse sectors to make a positive difference in the lives of Queensland children, their families and communities.”

An initial output of the Thriving Kids Brain Builders initiative is a free course, ‘Understanding Brain Development’, developed by QBI and Emerging Minds.

The course is a series of modules on the foundational concepts of neuroscience, understanding neuroplasticity, the impact of stress and trauma on brain development and the vital role of executive functioning in supporting children’s wellbeing.

TQKP Convenor and QBI Industry Fellow Michael Hogan said the initiative will help meet a need in the community and complement government initiatives.

“People working with children and young people have told us that they need access to the latest science and what it means for their practice – for teaching and caring across all the services and programs used by children, young people and their families,” Mr Hogan said.

“There is growing concern about levels of school readiness and achievement, about the emotional, mental and behavioural issues that children and families experience, and about the rates of stress and attrition in our teaching, caring and justice workforces.”

Queensland Education Minister Grace Grace said she welcomed the initiative.

“The Palaszczuk Government is committed to giving every child the best start in life, no matter their circumstances – that’s why we’re making kindy free for every Queensland family,” she said.

“We’re also investing heavily to support the early childhood workforce, and in extra support for those children who need it through our Inclusion Service and expansion of Kindy Uplift.

“The Thriving Kids Brain Builders initiative will get the latest neuroscience research straight into early educators’ hands and help them manage challenging behaviours, create positive experiences, and flag where early intervention and support might be needed.”

QBI Executive Director Professor Pankaj Sah said research linking neuroscience, psychology and education helped to increase understanding of the growing brain.

“Early learning experiences shape our brains and are critical in moulding the life chances of the youngest Australians,” Professor Sah said.

“We are dedicated to better understanding how we learn, and, through this initiative, we are providing a new way to support childhood and adolescent development and successful school learning.

“QBI is thrilled to partner with like-minded institutions that share our passion for the science of learning and development.”

UQ has signed a three-year $1.835 million agreement with ARACY for QBI to be the key implementation partner.

TQKP and the Thriving Kids Brain Builders initiative are supported by the Paul Ramsay Foundation, Hand Heart Pocket, The Bryan Foundation, The John Villiers Trust and the Tim Fairfax Family Foundation.

For more details, see the Thriving Kids Queensland Brain Builders Initiative website.

The free online course, ‘Understanding Brain Development’ is now available to workers and caregivers here.

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