ELF gives expert educators the chance to work with a child in the first five years of their lives. This first five years is the time that gives us our best opportunity to help launch them into school and life.
The window for 3-5 year olds
In the past 20 years, researchers in child development, education, psychology, neuroscience, and economics have demonstrated the value of two years of early education. Children between the ages of three and five experience a vital window in their development and what happens to them during this time can have a significant impact on their education and their lives.
The evidence shows that a child’s vocabulary at three years of age is a clear pointer to their literacy later in their schooling, so there’s much at stake for every child affected.
Starting early, and staying in early learning programs longer, is beneficial for many children and we know from the evidence that disadvantaged children benefit the most. The proviso is that the programs must be high quality. However, in Australia, the children who stand to benefit the most from access to high quality early learning are the least likely to attend, and they start school behind their peers as a result.
Preschool programs improve cognitive, and social and emotional outcomes — research on the long-term impacts of preschool highlights the interaction of academic, social and emotional skills on lifetime education and employment.
Who is eligible?
Support is offered to children who otherwise may be in danger of missing out on access to early learning and meet at least one of the following criteria:
- family in hardship
- Indigenous children
- refugee and humanitarian entrants
- children at risk of abuse or neglect.
Often the children who receive an ELF support grant come from homes that have been thrown into sudden disarray. This could be due to their parent or carer:
- dying or receiving a diagnosis of a terminal illness
- suffering mental health or substance abuse problems
- being incarcerated.
ELF provides invaluable long-term support
While there are Government programs to assist in the short-term, each year thousands of children miss out on the opportunity to continue with early learning when this support ends.
The science makes it clear that these children, above all others, have the most to gain from the quality early learning and care they receive at our centres. All too often, children from the four groups the project targets begin school already behind their peers, with undeveloped language, social and behavioural skills.