Research Summary

What is the relationship between childhood maltreatment and early educational outcomes?

Findings from the NSW Child Development Study
Early childhood education Primary education Educational achievement Residential care Foster care Child development Early childhood development Out-of-home care New South Wales

This Evidence to Action Note from the Family and Community Services Insights Analysis and Research (FACSIAR) at NSW Department of Communities and Justice summarises key findings from the NSW Child Development Study’s (NSW-CDS) research looking at the relationship between maltreatment of children before entry to school and educational outcomes in primary school.

The research used linked data from 56,860 children drawn from the NSW-CDS to examine associations between children who experience maltreatment in childhood with educational attainment as measured by the National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) for years 3 and 5.

Key findings:

  • Children who have experienced maltreatment, no matter the level of involvement with child protection services, are at greater risk of attaining poorer educational outcomes in primary school assessments of reading and numeracy.
  • Compared to non-reported children, children known to child protection services were more likely to have below average primary school assessments of reading and numeracy and less likely to achieve above average results.
  • Children with substantiated risk of significant harm (ROSH) reports who were not placed into out-of-home care (OOHC) showed the poorest educational attainment and would benefit from personalized educational supports and educational plans such as those provided for children in OOHC.
  • The educational attainment of children placed in OOHC appears to be strongly influenced by other related child, family, and neighborhood factors (e.g., socioeconomic status) that are known to be associated with OOHC placements.

These findings reinforce the importance of Inter-agency policy collaboration, particularly between the Department of Education and the Department of Communities and Justice, to develop and invest in effective multidisciplinary programs that support vulnerable children’s educational needs.

Publication Details
Access Rights Type:
Evidence to Action Note October 2021