Progress needed on 3 year olds in preschool to catch up to OECD - new report

State of Early Learning in Australia 2017 reportPublished by the Early Learning: Everyone Benefits campaign, with analysis from the Mitchell Institute at Victoria University, the report reveals:

  • One in five Australian children start school vulnerable in one or more domain(s) of social, emotional, language and cognitive, communication and general knowledge, or physical development; it's two in five for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children (p. 4–5).
  • Children who attend a quality early learning service are half as likely to have developmental vulnerabilities in one or more domain(s) when they start school as children who don’t attend any form of early childhood education (p. 11).

All Australian governments need to place a higher value on delivering quality early learning, especially to three and four-year-old children before they start school, if we are to thrive as a nation in a globalised economy, says a coalition of early childhood, parenting and community organisations on the release of the State of Early Learning in Australia 2017 report.


Published by the Early Learning: Everyone Benefits campaign, with analysis from the Mitchell Institute at Victoria University, the report reveals:

  • One in five Australian children start school vulnerable in one or more domain(s) of social, emotional, language and cognitive, communication and general knowledge, or physical development; it's two in five for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children (p. 4–5).

  • Children who attend a quality early learning service are half as likely to have developmental vulnerabilities in one or more domain(s) when they start school as children who don’t attend any form of early childhood education (p. 11).

  • Preschool participation rates for children in the year before starting school (includes four to six-year-olds) have rapidly increased in Australia, lifting from 12 per cent in 2008 to 91 per cent in 2015. However, Australia still lags behind two thirds of OECD countries on three-year-old participation, with 69 per cent of three-year-olds attending an early learning service, of which only 15 per cent participate in a preschool program (p. 3–4).

Australian children are falling behind in international tests, like the PISA (Program for International Student Assessment), and the report notes that a child with no pre-primary education is 1.9 times more likely to perform poorly in education than a student who has attended more than a year of pre-primary education, even after controlling for socioeconomic status (p. 12).

‘It’s not good enough that participation rates for three-year-olds sit below the OECD average at 69 per cent, with those participating in teacher-led preschool programs down at 15 per cent, especially when we know that one in five Australian children are starting school vulnerable in one or more areas of childhood development’, said campaign spokesperson, Early Childhood Australia CEO Samantha Page.


The risk of vulnerability is higher in children who’ve had no early learning experience. However, all Australian children would benefit from having access to two days per week of high-quality, affordable early learning in the two years before they start school.


‘It has been very encouraging to see preschool participation rates lift from just 12 per cent in 2008 up to 91 per cent in 2015, a direct result of the Universal Access policy, funded through a National Partnership Agreement between the Commonwealth and the states and territories’, said Shane Lucas, CEO of Early Learning Association Australia (campaign partner).


‘Federal and state government cooperation to fund preschool programs for all children in the year before school has been a remarkable success. Extending that approach to allow all 3 year olds to attend high quality, play-based early education would ensure some of our most disadvantaged children get the support they need,’ said Goodstart Advocacy Manager John Cherry (campaign partner).


The State of Early Learning in Australia 2017 report indicates that some children continue to miss out on accessing high-quality early learning due to a range of issues: affordability, distance, availability or a lack of awareness of the benefits that quality early learning provides to children.


It is of most concern that children who are from disadvantaged backgrounds are more than twice as likely to be developmentally vulnerable when starting school.

‘We need to support all families to engage in quality early learning. As this report shows, it is often those families that face additional barriers to accessing and engaging in early learning services that are likely to benefit most from such participation’, said Claerwen Little, National Director of UnitingCare Australia (campaign partner).

‘The empirical evidence is clear’, said Gowrie NSW CEO Lynne Harwood (campaign partner). ‘Children who have access to early education and care develop strong social, cognitive and lifelong learning skills.’ 

‘While vulnerable children benefit the most from participating in quality early learning, there is a strong argument that providing universal services—services that all children can access—is the most effective way to ensure vulnerable and disadvantaged children don’t miss out’, said Samantha Page. 

The benefits of early learning extend beyond children to the whole society. International studies show that when children attend a quality early learning service, they are more likely to succeed at school, and have better social and emotional outcomes. All of this contributes to reducing long-term costs to governments and to increasing benefits to society and the economy.


‘While governments are now more aware of the full benefits that high-quality early learning can deliver for our young children and our society, they need to make a concerted effort to develop policy and funding that will deliver better access to those children who are currently missing out’, concluded Samantha Page.


Download the State of Early Learning in Australia 2017 report and State/Territory Snapshots here:

http://www.everyonebenefits.org.au/resources

Read Mitchell Institute's Conversation story:

http://theconversation.com/early-learning-report-card-australia-is-improving-rapidly-but-theres-more-work-to-do-83706

 

MEDIA CONTACTS
For interviews with Samantha Page and other CEOs involved in the Early Learning: Everyone Benefits campaign, please contact Media and Campaign Manager Carolin Wenzel on 0475 554 999.

For interviews with Mitchell Institute Director, Megan O’Connell please contact: Communications & Media Director Julia Johnston on 0401 136 114. For more information about the Mitchell Institute visit:
http://www.mitchellinstitute.org.au/

Early Learning: Everyone Benefits is a campaign leading Australians to value the benefits of quality early learning for all children under five, and for Australia’s future prosperity. The campaign seeks political commitment to increase access to quality programs that amplify children’s development.

 

 

 

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