AEDC 2015 Report: A Primer


In 2009, Australia became the first country in the world to collect national data on the developmental health and wellbeing of all children as they start their first year of full-time school. The Australian Early Development Census (AEDC) is a nation wide data collection of early childhood development at the time children commence their first year of full-time school. The data is collected every three years.

The latest AEDC 2015 report was released earlier this year, and it provides us with rich data on how disadvantage of a community is related to the development vulnerability of its children. It also provides valuable information for Ardoch and other organisations so that we can target support to the areas of highest need.

The report provides data relating to five key areas or domains of early childhood development:

  • Physical health and well being
  • Social competence
  • Emotional maturity
  • Language and cognitive skills
  • Communication skills and general knowledge

Why is AEDC important?

It is important that children start school developmentally on track. Research shows that children who are experiencing vulnerability are five times more likely to struggle with literacy at school “perpetuating a cycle of low educational attainment and poverty” (Hempenstall, 2016). The Centre for Community Child Health found that children who start school with poor language and literacy skills spend the rest of their school years trying to catch up, and may never do. Moreover, the 2016 Grattan Institute report “Widening Gaps: What Naplan tells us about student progress” noted learning gaps widen alarmingly as students move through school and “students in low socioeconomic areas start behind, and make less progress in school”. Hence, starting school behind sets children on a trajectory of low educational outcomes.

An understanding of the developmental vulnerability of children at the time they start school is critical. Successive research reports have shown that investing time, effort and resources in children’s early years, when their brains are developing rapidly, benefits children and the whole community. A national census such as AEDC informs us where this time, effort and resources are most needed.

What does the report say about young children from disadvantaged communities?

The 2015 AEDC report found a linear relationship between “socio-economic disadvantage” and development vulnerability of children at the time they start school. The data collection found that 32.6% of children living in the most socio-economically disadvantaged Australian communities were developmentally vulnerable on one or more domains, and 18.4% on two or more domains, in comparison to their peers in the least disadvantaged areas - 15.5% developmentally vulnerable on one or more domains and 6.7% on two or more domains.

This relationship grew stronger in areas of entrenched disadvantage, such as Frankston North and Corio Norlane in Geelong.

In Frankston North, children starting school developmentally vulnerable in one or more domain stood at 41.1% compared to 19% in Victoria. Moreover, 17.8 % of the children started school developmentally vulnerable in two or more domains compared to only 9.9% in Victoria as a whole.

The results for Geelong showed that 17.8% of children starting school were developmentally vulnerable on one or more domains but this is much higher in Corio (31.8%) and in Norlane/North shore (39.0%), which was significantly higher than the national (22%) and Victorian results (19.9%).

Is the gap between children from most and least disadvantaged areas improving or worsening?

The 2015 AEDC report shows that the gap between developmentally vulnerable children in the most disadvantaged areas compared to the least disadvantaged areas has widened since 2009. From 2009 to 2015, the gap increased across all five developmental areas measured by the AEDC, including physical health and wellbeing, social competence, emotional maturity, language and cognitive skills (school-based), and communication skills and general knowledge.

How is Ardoch intervening to tackle the problem?

Ardoch is an education charity that provides support for children and young people in disadvantaged communities. Ardoch partners with early years services in areas of disadvantage to tackle developmental vulnerability before children start school. Ardoch trains volunteers to support children’s reading, writing, literacy and oral language development and provides books, resources and learning opportunities for children and families. During 2015/16, Ardoch worked with Deakin University to develop a new “Early Language and Literacy” program to equip the volunteers with skills, knowledge and confidence in developing young children’s literacy and language skills. This program uses evidence of early intervention approaches that best engage young children in disadvantaged communities, build early language, literacy and overall school readiness.

Sign up as an early years volunteer with Ardoch and help support the development of vulnerable young children in disadvantaged communities. 

Ardoch Youth Foundation is an education charity that provides support for children and young people in disadvantaged communities. You can help us by signing up to become a volunteer and/or making a tax-deductible donation. Every dollar counts!