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More children starting school on track

Government and sector

There was good news last week on the progress of Australia’s children starting school developmentally on track.

The results of the Australian Early Development Census conducted last year were released showing a  reduction in the number of children in Year One who were developmentally vulnerable, which has fallen from 23.6 per cent in 2009 to 21.7 per cent in 2018.

The Australian Early Development Census, which included 300,000 Year One children from throughout the country, focuses on five key areas – physical health and wellbeing, social competence, emotional maturity, language and cognitive skills and communication skills and general knowledge.

Goodstart advocacy manager John Cherry said there had been significant improvement in the communication skills and general knowledge indicator which is influenced most by early learning.

“Children who have not attended early learning are twice as likely to start school developmentally vulnerable as children who have attended early learning. And research shows that children who start school developmentally vulnerable are more likely to have poor educational outcomes and lower NAPLAN test results,” Mr Cherry said.

“Of the five AEDC domains, communication and social competence demonstrate the most difference in vulnerability between children who did, and did not attend early learning. And the big improvement we have seen on the communication and general knowledge results shows that ensuring as many children as possible have access to early learning in the year before school, has had an impact,” Mr Cherry said.

“But if we are to get further significant gains,  the next big reform we need is to give all children access to two years of high quality early learning.”

The census found one in three children from the most disadvantaged suburbs are vulnerable compared to one in seven from the least disadvantaged suburbs. Nearly half of all remote children are vulnerable.

The data shows six out of 10 Indigenous children (or 41 per cent) were developmentally vulnerable, down from 47 per cent in 2009.

Early Childhood Australia CEO Samantha Page called on Federal and state- based governments to work together to ensure all children had access to two years of preschool education.

She said children in all states and territories were experiencing “unacceptably high” levels of vulnerability.
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