A 2015 survey shows one in five Australian children are developmentally vulnerable when starting school
Mar 9, 2016 | News | by The Learning Press staff
One-in-five Australian children start school not ready to learn, new research has shown.
The Australian Early Development Census provides data on more than 300,000 children from 7,500 schools in their first full year of education.
It shows one-in-five children are vulnerable in at least one area of their development when they start school, rising to one-in-three for those from disadvantaged backgrounds.
The figure for indigenous children stands at 42 per cent - but is at least trending downwards.
Education minister Simon Birmingham said while it was encouraging that 78 per cent of children were developing well, the new statistics highlighted “stark differences” between girls and boys, low and high socio-economic groups and between states.
The Australian Education Union has seized on the data to further push its campaign for full Gonski funding, saying schools catering for disadvantaged children will benefit most from the needs-based resources.
“Gonski funding is already allowing schools to deliver things like speech pathology, targeted literacy and numeracy support and behavioural programs to help these children,” said federal president Corenna Haythorpe.
“Education Minister Simon Birmingham admits that there are stark differences in the performance of students based on their socio-economic background, yet is not supporting the Gonski funding which would target resources straight to the schools which educate those students.”
The census measures five areas of early childhood development.
They are: physical health and wellbeing; social competence; emotional maturity; language and cognitive skills; and communication skills and general knowledge.
Data for the AEDC has been collected every three years since 2009, with the 2015 results showing children’s development to be generally improving and developmental vulnerability decreasing over time.
But differences in children from varied demographics reflect the trend identified in a Mitchell Institute report last year of a growing gap in achievement between advantaged and disadvantaged Australian students.
Children living in very remote areas are twice as likely as those living in major cities to be developmentally vulnerable - and that gap has widened since 2009.
As with previous years, the census shows more girls are developmentally on track, with some 85 per cent of girls not considered developmentally vulnerable as compared to 72 per cent of boys.
“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,” Senator Birmingham said.
"Children who start school with sound physical, social, emotional, cognitive and communication capabilities are far more likely to enjoy school and succeed at school.
“The Turnbull Government’s child care reform deliberately targets the greatest support to hard working low and middle income families.”
The AEDC is designed to provide data on community issues affecting children and evidence of where reforms are working or failing.
It is a Government-funded scheme run in partnership with state and territory governments, Melbourne’s Social Research Centre, the Telethon Kids Institute in Perth and the Royal Children’s Hospital, Melbourne.