New statistics released today show 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.
Minister for Education and Training Simon Birmingham said while it was encouraging that 78 per cent of children were developing well, the new statistics point out stark differences between girls and boys, low and high socio-economic groups and from state to state.
Minister Birmingham said the third Australian Early Development Census provides data on more than 300,000 children in their first full year of school, from 7,500 schools, and provides a ‘constructive and instructive snapshot’ for local communities on the strengths and weaknesses of the children in their areas.
“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,” Minister 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.
"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 better we understand where the skills to succeed are lacking the better we can help families, community services and schools to give those children the assistance they need and to reduce the incidence of vulnerability in the future.
“Emotional, social, physical and educational outcomes can be improved through increased parental engagement, targeted interventions and in areas such as early learning or child care, which is why the Turnbull Government’s child care reforms deliberately targets the greatest support to hard working low and middle income families.”
Consistent with previous years the census shows that more girls were developmentally on track, with nearly 85 per cent of girls not considered developmentally vulnerable as compared to 72 per cent of boys.
Minister 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 per cent of children hitting developmental targets across the language and cognitive skill areas in 2015, an increase from 82.6 per cent in 2012 and 77.1 per cent in 2009,” Minister Birmingham said.
"Pleasingly, this improvement has been clearly recorded across all socio-economic demographics with the gains are most pronounced in Queensland and Western Australia, albeit from much lower baselines."
Minister Birmingham said the latest census should reassure parents, families and children that their local services have up-to-date information on the major challenges confronting children in their community as well as emerging evidence of where reforms are working or failing to make a positive difference.
“These results can help communities understand what’s working well in their local area and what needs to be improved or developed to better support children and their families,” Minister Birmingham said.
“With an increased understanding of how policies and practices impact child development, together we can strive to create excellent service and support systems for all children and families in Australia.”
The AEDC 2015 national report is available at: www.aedc.gov.au