A child’s informal number sense when they enter school provides a foundation for school maths achievement and strongly predicts competence later in school. A child’s social and emotional development, such as how they manage feelings, make friends and solve problems, are vital life skills that support their wellbeing and influence their learning.
Presented in the Early Childhood Research Quarterly, the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute study found programs such as preschool and kindergarten could promote children’s healthy development and protect against learning vulnerabilities.
In Australia, one in five children starts school developmentally vulnerable.
The 2015 Australian Early Development Census (AEDC) shows that of the one in five children starting school vulnerable, they are behind in at least one area of their development. This includes communication skills and general knowledge, social competence, language and cognitive skills, emotional maturity and/or physical health and wellbeing.
Murdoch Childrens Research Institute professor and co-author of the study Sharon Goldfeld said the results suggested a positive association between preschool and these skill areas.
“The big finding from this study is preschool is good for everybody, whether you’re high income or low income,” Prof Goldfeld said.
The study findings come after the release of the Mitchell Institute at Victoria University report, Preschool – Two Years are Better than One, which highlighted the substantial benefits children receive from access to two years of early learning before school. The study recommended two years of quality preschool would give children the best chance to thrive at school and later in life.
The report showed two years could do even more to improve brain growth and emotional wellbeing, and was especially beneficial for children experiencing developmental vulnerabilities.
What else did the national study find?
- Despite the proven positive effects, only 73 per cent of five year olds in Australia are enrolled in preschool or kindergarten
- A structured play-based program led by a qualified early childhood teacher the year before a child starts school