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AEDC Report reveals widening gap for children in low socioeconomic areas

The Australian Early Development Census (AEDC) National Report 2015 released last week shows the gap between developmentally vulnerable children in the most disadvantaged areas compared to the least disadvantaged areas has widened since 2009.[1] 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. The report also revealed a widening gap for children living in remote parts of Australia compared with major cities.

AEDC GraphThe AEDC, formerly the AEDI, is a population-based measure of early childhood development at the time children commence their first year of primary school. It measures how well children are doing across the five key developmental areas, based on teacher’s knowledge and observations of the child. The AEDC has been shown to predict later health, wellbeing and academic outcomes. It is therefore a useful tool for considering how well the health and education system is responding to the needs of the children.

The AEDC report found that children living in the most socioeconomically disadvantaged areas are twice as likely to be developmentally vulnerable (32.6 per cent) than children living in the most advantaged areas (15.5 per cent). Low scores in the first year of school can place children from low socioeconomic areas on a poor developmental trajectory throughout their schooling.[2] Conversely, high scores on the AEDC can provide a buffer throughout their schooling[3], highlighting the importance of early intervention.

More positively, the report revealed improvements for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children[4], with a 5 per cent decrease in the proportion who are developmentally vulnerable. Despite these gains, Aboriginal children continue to be one of the most educationally disadvantaged groups in Australia, and are twice as likely (42.1 per cent) as non-Aboriginal children (20.8 per cent) to be developmentally vulnerable. Improvements were also found for children with a language background other than English.

While changes were present for certain cohorts, there was no change to the total proportion of children who are developmentally vulnerable on at least one or more domain, remaining at 22 per cent. While Victoria performed better than the national average, there was a small increase since 2012 in the proportion of Victorian children who are developmentally vulnerable in one or more domains (19.9 per cent) and in two or more domains (9.5 per cent).

These results show we still have a long way to go in reducing locational disadvantage. For example the recent report, Dropping off the Edge[5] reported the six most disadvantaged postcodes in Victoria were Broadmeadows, Corio, Doveton, Frankston North, Maryborough and Morwell. All of these areas had a greater proportion of children who were developmentally vulnerable on one or more of the five developmental domains of the AEDC compared with the Victorian average. However, AEDC results from 2012 to 2015 reveal positive changes for both Doveton and Frankston North, with statistically significant decreases in the proportion of children who were vulnerable.

  % Children developmentally vulnerable on one or more of the five developmental domains of the AEDC
  2009 2012 2015 Victoria 2015
Broadmeadows/ Jacana 44.8 46.5 40.4 19.9
Corio 30.7 32.8 31.8 19.9
Doveton 32.4 46.7 30.5* 19.9
Frankston North 70.4 64.1 41.1* 19.9
Maryborough 39.0 35.4 29.9 19.9
Morwell 29.7 42.3 50.9# 19.9

*Statistically significant decrease between 2012-2015

#Statistically significant increase between 2012-2015

Place-based initiatives that combine government, non-government and private sector efforts to build on community strengths and raise social and economic activity can help communities overcome entrenched disadvantage and reduce the number of children who are developmentally vulnerable. The VCOSS 2016-17 State Budget Submission Putting people back in the picture calls on the Victorian government to establish a social innovation fund to support community-led, place-based strategies.

Place-based initiatives have the potential to break down policy silos, address social problems, build communities, deal with complexity and address the unique local factors that affect poverty and disadvantage. Silos can be broken down by coordinating activity at a local level. Complexity can be addressed through a focus on outcomes and addressing the local factors that cause poverty and disadvantage to be reinforced. Community resilience and protective factors can be created through a focus on community capacity building

Case study: The Go Goldfields Alliance[6]

The Go Goldfields Alliance, based in Maryborough, is a partnership of service providers in Victoria’s Central Goldfields Shire, created to deliver locally relevant responses to complex and entrenched social issues. The place-based approach was initiated and implemented entirely by the community and has strong community ownership. The alliance has developed a suite of integrated strategies to improve social, education and health outcomes for children, young people and families, with a strong focus on prevention and early intervention. Between 2012 and 2014 there were a number of achievements made through the Go Goldfields Alliance such as parents and early years services being more aware of the importance of early communication, literacy and numeracy skills and families having increased opportunities to be involved in both social and capacity building activities[7]. This has improved their social connections and confidence and skills in parenting and there has been a reduction in the number of children requiring speech pathology intervention once they reached school. The work of Go Goldfields continues to develop a whole of community place-based approach to tackling entrenched disadvantage.

Case Study: Doveton College

Doveton College[8] is the outcome of a unique partnership between the Victorian state government, the Commonwealth government and a non-profit philanthropic organisation. The college is a birth-to-Year 9 government school, located in an area of high disadvantage in Melbourne’s outer east. It provides ‘whole-life’ opportunities for children and young people through early intervention, family support and community integration. Mainstream services such as kindergarten, structured playgroups, childcare and traditional schooling are integrated with a wide range of services that ‘wrap around’ children and their families, including Maternal and Child Health services, and specialist services such as mental health and Aboriginal services. The college also uses outreach services, such as parenting programs, to help reach vulnerable families. The key to Doveton College’s success is that it is based on strong partnerships and a shared vision. It also represents a local response to community need, and was underpinned by two years of intensive consultation with the community.

 

 

[1] Go Goldfields Shire Council, Go Goldfields: aspiring and achieving.

[2] Go Goldfields Alliance Evaluation Report 2012-2014.

[3] Doveton College; Victorian Council of Social Service, ‘Doveton College Opening Doors out of disadvantage’, Insight, Issue 9 , Melbourne, 2014.

[1] Overall the gap grew from 15.4 per cent in 2009 to 17.1 percent in 2015, peaking at 19.0 per cent in 2012.

[2] Australian Early Development Census, Research Snapshot: The impact of socioeconomics and school readiness for life course educational trajectories, ED14-0193, 2014.

[3] Ibid.

[4] The term ‘Aboriginal’ will be used to represent Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.

[5] T Vinson and M Rawsthorne, Dropping off the edge 2015: Persistent communal disadvantage in Australia, Jesuit Social Services and Catholic Social Services Australia, 2015, p. 70.

[6] Go Goldfields Shire Council, Go Goldfields: aspiring and achieving.

[7] Go Goldfields Alliance Evaluation Report 2012-2014

[8] Doveton College; Victorian Council of Social Service, ‘Doveton College Opening Doors out of disadvantage’, Insight, Issue 9 , Melbourne, 2014.