Taskforce calls for action on early childhood education
A report into early childhood education has called for more flexible services, pilot trials of holistic schemes, improved governance and stronger parental engagement.
The Gap Taskforce on Early Childhood Education reveals one in five Australian children are developmentally vulnerable, while Indigenous children are twice as likely to be vulnerable.
Children living in remote and regional areas are more likely to be developmentally vulnerable on two or more domains, such as communication skills and physical health, than their counterparts living in inner city areas.
Children who start out vulnerable begin school behind their classmates and often never catch up, remaining disadvantaged throughout their lives.
As a result, the report also calls for a better connection between services, alternative procurement strategies and a stronger evidence base in early childhood education.
Goodstart Early Learning CEO Julia Davison was part of the taskforce in to early childhood education.
It found approaches needed to focus on the strengths of children’s families rather than starting with the problems of the child. This would recognise that children need different kinds of support, and that the right support should be co-designed with the family so that it maximises the child’s potential for development.
The report also found early learning services - and the systems funding services - needed to work together to help children and families with multiple needs.
Ms Davison said improving access to early learning for disadvantaged and vulnerable children needed to be a key national priority.
“This report confirms research showing that the children who would benefit most from early learning and the ones least likely to attend,” she said.
“We need a concerted effort to remove barriers to children’s participation in early learning, whether that be cost, transport or family circumstances, and then ensure that the centre is equipped to give the children and their families the support that they need.
“Research shows that early intervention has a huge impact on children’s lives, equipping children to be more ready when they start school and helping achieve better learning and life outcomes right into adulthood,” she said.
One of the key suggestions was working to make better use of existing information sources, such as NAPLAN, to enable the early childhood environment to better understand variability between individual children, targeting interventions to the needs of the child.
Findings revealed research needed to be translated more effectively to make the most of investments in early learning, and more Australian-specific research needed to be undertaken.