Australian children have made improvements in language and cognitive skills over a decade but there is still work to do.
The Morrison Government today publishes data from more than 300,000 children in their first year of full-time school that was collected as part of the 2018 Australian Early Development Census (AEDC).
The AEDC collects data covering language and cognitive skills, communications skills, general knowledge, physical health and wellbeing, social competence and emotional maturity.
The percentage of children who are "developmentally on track" in language and cognitive skills has increased from 77.1 per cent to 84.4 per cent since 2009 while the percentage who are "developmentally vulnerable" has fallen from 8.9 per cent to 6.6 per cent over the same period.
While the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous children continues to narrow it is still too high. In 2018, 35.2 per cent of Indigenous children in their first year of full-time schooling were assessed as being on track across all five domains, a nine percentage point improvement on 2009.
In the most disadvantaged communities, 32.3 per cent of children were rated developmentally vulnerable on one or more domains in 2018, down from 32.85 per cent in 2015.
Minister for Education Dan Tehan said the report would help ensure that services were better targeted so children got the best start in life.
"We are focussed on lifting preschool participation rates, especially for disadvantaged and Indigenous children, because improving attendance is the key to ensuring that preschool adds value to a child’s education," Mr Tehan said.
"We are achieving this through partnerships with the states and territories as well as providing low income families with automatic access to subsidised child care services.
"Every Australian child deserves the best start in life, that is why the Morrison Government will spend $8.3 billion on early childhood education and child care this financial year. Authorised by The Hon Dan Tehan MP, Liberal Party of Australia, Parliament House, Canberra
"Our Government has made the most significant reforms to child care in more than 40 years. Since our Child Care Subsidy was introduced on 2 July 2018, out-of-pocket child care costs for families have gone down by more than 10 per cent.
"Our Government is keeping Australians together by ensuring that we have data that informs parents, families and service providers about the challenges facing children in their community as well as evidence of where reforms are working.
"Information is power, and having information about which children need support will help governments and other providers to best direct their services."
Percentage ‘Developmentally on track’
|Physical health and wellbeing||78.1||77.3||77.7|
|Language and cognitive skills (school-based)||84.4||84.6||77.1|
|Communication skills and general knowledge||77.3||76.3||75.0|
Percentage ‘Developmentally at risk’
|Physical health and wellbeing||12.3||13.0||13.0|
|Language and cognitive skills (school-based)||9.0||8.9||14.0|
|Communication skills and general knowledge||14.5||15.1||15.8|
Percentage ‘Developmentally vulnerable’
|Physical health and wellbeing||9.6||9.7||9.3|
|Language and cognitive skills (school-based)||6.6||6.5||8.9|
|Communication skills and general knowledge||8.2||8.5||9.2|
For each of the five AEDC domains, children receive a score between 0 and 10 where 0 is most developmentally vulnerable. This is determined by their teacher and is based on the child’s observed performance during standard classroom lessons, activities etc. There is no specialised testing required.
The cut-off scores set in 2009 provide a reference point against which later AEDC results can be compared. These have remained the same across all the three collection cycles. For example, using the cut-off scores established in 2009, in the 2015 AEDC only 6.5 per cent of children were considered developmentally vulnerable on the Language and Cognitive Development domain, a decrease from 8.9 per cent in 2009.
Developmentally on track
The cut-off for an AEDC score to represent developmentally on track uses the baseline cut-offs from the 2009 AEDC data collection. In 2009 children who scored above the 25th percentile (in the top 75 per cent) of the national population were classified as developmentally on track. These have remained the same across all collection cycles.
Developmentally at risk
The cut-off for an AEDC score to represent developmentally at risk uses the baseline cut-offs from the 2009 AEDC data collection. In 2009 children who scored between the 10th and the 25th percentile of the national population were classified as developmentally at risk. These have remained the same across all collection cycles.
The cut-off for an AEDC score to represent developmentally vulnerable is based on the results from the 2009 AEDC data collection. In 2009 children who scored below the 10th percentile (in the lowest 10 per cent) of the national population were classified as developmentally vulnerable. These have remained the same across all collection cycles.
The AEDC national report and community profiles are available online at www.aedc.gov.au