The 2015 Australian Early Development Census (AEDC) results have been released with data collected from over 300,000 Australian children, representing 96 per cent of children in their first year of full-time school.
Key findings from the AEDC reveal that 22 per cent of children were developmentally vulnerable on one or more domains across the five AEDC domains. This is consistent with results from 2012 and is an improvement from 2009.
Significant gains have been made in childen’s language and cognitive skills, with only 6.5 per cent of children considered developmentally vulnerable on this domain. This represents a decrease from 6.8 per cent in 2012 and 8.9 per cent in 2009.
Overall, since the AEDC began in 2009, we have seen an improvement in communication skills and general knowledge. Less than 10 per cent of children were considered developmentally vulnerable on this domain in 2015.
Developmental vulnerability on the physical health and wellbeing domain has remained mostly steady, showing a slight increase from 9.3 per cent in 2009 and 2012 to 9.7 per cent in 2015. Similarly, results from the social competence domain have shown a small increase in developmental vulnerability. In 2009, 9.5 per cent of children were developmentally vulnerable on this domain, which decreased to 9.3 per cent in 2012, and increased to 9.9 per cent in 2015.
Results in the emotional maturity domain have fluctuated over the three collections. The percentage of children developmentally vulnerable on this domain was 8.9 per cent in 2009 and decreased to 7.6 per cent in 2012. And while developmental vulnerability increased to 8.4 per cent in 2015, it is still an improvement from 2009.
Looking to gender differences, approximately 15 per cent of girls compared to 28 per cent of boys were developmentally vulnerable on one or more domains, which has remained consistent with previous years.
The data suggests where children live can have an impact on their development. While only 21 per cent of children living in major cities were developmentally vulnerable on one or more domains, the percentage of developmentally vulnerable children living in very remote areas was more than double at 47 per cent.
Further to this, socio-economic status can also impact children’s development. Almost one in three children in the most disadvantaged communities were developmentally vulnerable on one or more domain. However, this has improved since 2012.
This is in contrast to children living in areas not experiencing socio-economic disadvantage, where only one in six children were developmentally vulnerable on one or more domain.
The 2015 AEDC results provide a good snapshot of how children are developing at the national, state and community level. These results can assist communities understand what is working well and what needs to be improved or developed in their community to better support children and their families.