Children living in Australia’s most disadvantaged communities remain much more likely to be developmentally vulnerable than their more advantaged peers and this is a major cause for concern, The Smith Family said yesterday.
Data in the Australian Early Development Census (AEDC) National Report revealed
that more than one in five Australian children are vulnerable in at least one area of their development, and one in ten vulnerable in at least two areas at the time they reach school.
The Census provides data on more than 300,000 children in their first full year of school, from 7,500 schools, as well as a “constructive and instructive snapshot” for local communities on the strengths and weaknesses of the children in their areas.
A spokesperson for The Smith Family told The Educator that while the data showed progress in some areas – such as language and cognitive support – there was “a considerable way to go” if all children were to start school on track.
“The latest Australian Early Development Census data shows mixed progress,” the spokesperson said.
“Very regrettably there are still one in five children who are developmentally vulnerable on one or more domains and this hasn’t changed since 2012 – and there are still significant gaps in development which are influenced by where a child is living and their family circumstance.
“Targeting support to those families and communities who most need is key to improving this picture.”
In a statement yesterday, The Smith Family CEO, Lisa O’Brien, said research showed how critical parents and the home environment are to children’s development.
“Parental engagement in children’s learning for example, is a bigger predictor of how children do at school than their family’s socio-economic status,” she said.
O’Brien added that equipping parents with the skills, knowledge, confidence and resources to positively engage in their children’s development, will help children build their skills and confidence, before they start school.
“This approach can make a critical difference to children’s longer-term educational outcomes and wellbeing,” she said.
Kevin Robbie, CEO of charity, United Way Australia, said the AEDC data reflected “an early learning crisis” in Australia.
“It’s clear that no one person, organisation or government body can shift the dial for Australia’s most vulnerable children – we’ve got to work together on this,” he said in a statement.
A leading children’s education charity has called for greater support to help pre-school kids meet specific developmental needs.