Communities working together
Results from the AEDC can have a significant influence on how communities work together to improve developmental outcomes of children within the community.
One of these stories comes from Frankston North, a severely disadvantaged community in Victoria. In 2009, AEDC results from Frankston North revealed 70 per cent of children were developmentally vulnerable on one or more domains, compared to 23.6 per cent of all Australian children in that category. In 2012, the AEDC results had improved slightly, but 64 per cent of children in Frankston North were still considered to be developmentally vulnerable on one or more domains. The 2015 AEDC results show a marked improvement again with 41.1 per cent of children developmentally vulnerable on one or more domains, compared with the national figure of 22 per cent in 2012 and 2015.
John Culley, principal of Frankston North’s Mahogany Rise Primary School said community members got together with the Victorian Department of Education and Training to form the Frankston North Early Learning Network to integrate the work being done by kindergartens, child care centers, primary schools, government and non-government welfare and health organisations working with families in the area.
The AEDC data on Culley’s school laid a foundation for a good understanding of which areas needed to be addressed immediately. “The AEDC helped focus education, social wellbeing and health professionals. The data was so strong that we could identify the need to address oral language skills and health as priorities,” he said.
With the Mahogany Rise Child and Family Centre being co-located with the primary school, the community has access to a kindergarten, long day care and maternal and child services. The kindergarten utilises speech therapists to equip children with oral language skills and are already seeing results among these children who transition into Prep.
Culley also recognised the need to address important health issues students at the primary school faced. Thoughtful planning led to Frankston Hospital’s Director of Paediatrics, Dr Kathy McMahon setting up an outpatient bulk-billing service for students in the school. Culley states that the beauty of having the services on site at the school is that the doctors have access to the parents as well as the children and their teachers.
Culley feels the agencies work together really well as a result of the AECD data. “The AECD has been a very good precursor for many of our programs. We have looked at how we can make significant changes to alter the outcomes for a whole generation of children,” he said.
In addition to the decrease in the percentage of children vulnerable on one or more domain since 2009, there has been a significant decrease in the percentage of children vulnerable on each domain. Even when compared with results from 2012, vulnerability on the emotional maturity domain decreased from 27 per cent to 8.2 percent in 2015. And vulnerability on the social competence and communication skills and general knowledge domain have halved since 2012.
AEDC results from the Frankston North community is a great example of how communities use AEDC data in a meaningful way to develop integrated and comprehensive models to improve early developmental outcomes of children.
Little Kids Day Out
The community of Gympie in the Cooloola region of Queensland is a great example of how the AEDC results are used by communities to spread important messages about early development. The AEDC results for the Cooloola region showed that developmental vulnerability on one or more domains increased from 30.3 in 2009 per cent to 34.1 per cent in 2012. In 2014 the community held the inaugural Little Kids Day Out event, and each year since the number of attendees has increased.
With the help of over 250 volunteers, the event focuses on providing experiences that promote the value of play-based learning in the early years and showcase entertainment and singing and dancing sessions with performers. There are various activities for children that focus on the domains used to measure early development. Activities that promote health and well-being are provided through interactive and useful information about diet and nutrition. There are activities to promote motor skills and others that focus on language and cognitive skills. The event also provides information for parents by setting up information booths for various services and facilities for parents. Some teachers from the community also take part to work with parents and children and model effective encouragement practices for parents to use with their children.
Kim Waters, President of the Early Childhood Teachers' Association Inc. (ECTA), said that the event serves as a catalyst for the community to get everyone involved and focusing on the importance of early development. The 2015 AEDC results showed that vulnerability on one or more domains had decreased back down to 30.3 per cent for the region, with the hope that developmental vulnerability will continue to decline in the future.
Overall, the event does a great job in raising awareness about the importance of early childhood development and to engage the whole community in promoting high quality relationships with children. And with the increase in attendees every year, it mobilises increasing numbers in the community to play an active role in the healthy development of all children in the community.