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Supporting all children to thrive

The importance of equity in early childhood education
Early childhood development Early childhood services Child care Early childhood education Australia
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Supporting all children to thrive 3.62 MB

Australia has been measuring child development – including developmental vulnerability and the domains that make up child development – for more than a decade, through the Australian Early Development Census (AEDC). The AEDC classifies children as ‘on track’, ‘at risk’ or ‘vulnerable’ depending on how they score in each area of development, known as a domain. Children who are developmentally vulnerable demonstrate a much lower than average ability in at least one AEDC domain. The five domains measured are physical health and wellbeing, social competence, emotional maturity, language and cognitive skills (school-based), and communication skills and general knowledge. These are essential aspects of children’s development that have long-term consequences in areas such as adult health, employment and social outcomes (AEDC 2014).

Quality ECEC has been shown to reduce vulnerability. Across Australia there are thousands of children whose learning, and life trajectories, have been brought back on track through quality ECEC. Research shows that disadvantaged children stand to benefit the most from ECEC but also face barriers to access (Melhuish et al. 2015). By supporting all children – particularly those most in need – to attend quality early education, we can give more children the chance to thrive. The risks of not acting are immense, and COVID-19 may increase children’s vulnerability. In 2022 we are seeing the consequences of COVID-19 across the workforce, with staffing shortages due to a combination of the immediate effects of the pandemic and substantially lower levels of skilled immigration. Emerging research is revealing the effects on the development of babies born during the pandemic. There is considerable evidence mounting about disruption to care, harms to family functioning and relationships, and poorer child mental health and wellbeing.

This report demonstrates that in every community there are children who are developmentally vulnerable compared to their peers. Communities that are far from city centres and those of low socio-economic ranking have higher levels of child developmental vulnerability.

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