New Australian Early Development Census (AEDC) data shows 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.
In a statement today, Federal Education Minister, Simon Birmingham, said that while it was encouraging that 78% of children were developing well, the new statistics showed “stark differences” between girls and boys, low and high socio-economic groups as well as states.
“This vital data provides local communities with essential information that allows them to tailor local programmes and initiatives to ensure children in their area are being assisted in their areas of greatest need,” Birmingham said.
“I’m encouraged that nearly four in five children were deemed to be educationally, socially and emotionally on track by the time they reached school but as parents and through all of our community support structures we can do better.”
An ‘early learning crisis’
Kevin Robbie, CEO of charity, United Way Australia, said the 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 today.
“We need to radically refocus effort to support parents to be their child’s first teacher, well before their first day at school, to stop the cycle of disadvantage in Australia.”
Consistent with previous years, the census shows that more girls were developmentally on track, with nearly 85% of girls not considered developmentally vulnerable as compared to 72% of boys.
Birmingham said it was “extremely encouraging” that the strongest trend revealed in the statistics shows the percentage of developmentally vulnerable children in the language and cognitive skills domain had steadily decreased over time.
“Significant gains have been made in children’s language and cognitive skills with nearly 85% of children hitting developmental targets across the language and cognitive skill areas in 2015, an increase from 82.6% in 2012 and 77.1% in 2009,” he said.
- 22% of Australian students start school ‘developmentally vulnerable’ in one or more of the following areas: language and cognitive skills, communication skills and general knowledge, physical health and wellbeing, social competence and emotional maturity.
- 42.1% Indigenous children are developmentally vulnerable (almost twice the rate of overall population).
- Children living in very remote communities are twice as likely to be developmentally vulnerable (47%) than in major cities (21%).
- Socio-economic status can have an impact on a child’s development - Children living in the most socio-economically disadvantaged communities are more than twice as likely to be developmentally vulnerable (almost 33%) than in the least disadvantaged communities (under 16%).