What is the AEDC?
The Australian Early Development Census (AEDC) is a population-based measure of how children in Australia have developed by the time they start their first year of full-time school. Teachers complete a research tool, the Australian version of the Early Development Instrument (the Instrument). The Instrument measures five key areas, or domains, of early childhood development:
- physical health and wellbeing
- social competence
- emotional maturity
- language and cognitive skills (school-based) and
- communication skills and general knowledge
These areas are closely linked to the predictors of adult health, education and social outcomes.
The Council of Australian Governments (COAG) has endorsed the AEDC as a national progress measure of early childhood development in Australia.
Who is responsible for the AEDC?
The Australian Government and state and territory governments are working in partnership with various organisations to deliver the AEDC. The Social Research Centre in Melbourne collects and manages the AEDC data.
How is the AEDC data collected?
Teachers complete the Australian version of the Early Development Instrument (similar to a questionnaire) for children in their first year of full-time school using a secure data entry system. The Instrument is completed based on the teacher’s knowledge and observations of the children in their class. Children are not required to be present while teachers complete the Instrument. Schools are provided with funding for teacher relief time – it takes teachers around 20 minutes to complete each Instrument.
How is the AEDC completed for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children?
If the teacher of an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander child in their first year of full-time school is not of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander descent, it is recommended the Instrument be completed in consultation with an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Cultural Consultant, where available. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Cultural Consultants bring unique cultural knowledge and are well placed to support teachers with completing the Instrument because of their personal understanding of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children's ways of learning and behaving.
To ensure the Australian version of the Early Development Instrument is culturally inclusive and appropriate for use with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander stakeholders across metropolitan, rural and remote sites were consulted.
Why is the AEDC completed in the first year of full-time school?
Research shows that the experiences and relationships that babies and children have during their early years strongly affect their future development. Providing the right kinds of services, resources and support during the early years brings life-long benefits to children and the community.
The AEDC can also be used to monitor changes in the development of children in communities over time to understand how local circumstances might be changed to improve children's life chances.
Why doesn’t my community have a Community Profile?
Your community might not have met the criteria for publishing the Australian Early Development Census (AEDC) data.
The following criteria need to be met for AEDC results to be published in the maps and Community Profiles:
- At least 15 children with valid AEDC data reside in the community
- At least two teachers contribute to the data collection for the community
- 80 per cent or more of the Instruments are valid.
These criteria are in place to maintain the confidentiality of all children and to ensure the data is reliable and appropriately used. Particular care is needed in areas where the Australian version of the Early Development Instrument has been completed for only a small number of children in a community.
For a child’s overall results to be valid, a maximum of one domain can be missing, and the child must be older than three years and not have special needs.
What if the information in my Community Profile doesn’t seem to reflect what I know about the children in my area?
Community consultation often helps to explain the AEDC results. Bringing people with different perspectives on local children across the community together can provide insights about the results and help communities to make sense of unexpected results.
Please contact your state or territory AEDC coordinator if you have any concerns or queries or would like assistance on how to use the results.
Where can I go for more information and advice on sharing results with my community?
A comprehensive online AEDC user guide is available to help you understand the results, engage with others and plan actions in your community.
The Community Profile has data for the Community and the Local Community. What is the difference?
An AEDC Local Community is generally based on suburb boundaries. Local Communities are all within a governing boundary, which in most places is the Local Government Area (LGA). This area is referred to as an AEDC Community.
Why didn’t my Local Community have results published in the Community Profile?
Local Communities need to meet the criteria for publishing AEDC data for results to be reported in a Community Profile. This helps to ensure the data is reliable and that the AEDC can maintain confidentiality.
Why has my Local Community been combined with another Local Community?
If one or more adjacent Local Communities have not met the criteria for publishing AEDC data, they might be combined with adjacent Local Communities to enable more AEDC results to be made publicly available.
What can I do if my Local Community has no AEDC results available?
You could look at the Community Profile, neighbouring local communities or local communities that are socioeconomically similar to gain some insight into early childhood development outcomes that might be relevant to your own area.
There are mapped results for my Local Community but no Community Profile. Why?
In some cases, a Local Community meets the criteria for publishing AEDC data but the AEDC Community in which it belongs does not. In these cases, a Community Profile will not be available.
Has the AEDC been done before?
Between 2004 and 2008 the Building Better Communities for Children project trialled the AEDC in 60 communities across Australia. This involved 56,752 children, 2,157 teachers from 1,012 schools (both government and non-government) from every state and territory (with the exception of the Northern Territory). Additionally, the AEDC is based on the Early Development Instrument developed in Canada which has included over 520,000 Canadian children.
In 2009, the AEDC (formerly known as the Australian Early Development Index or AEDI) was conducted nationally for the first time, providing a snapshot of the early childhood development outcomes of children in Australia.
The AEDC has been conducted nationally every three years since then (2012, 2015, 2018). More than 95 per cent of schools with eligible children participated in each collection.
Ongoing AEDC funding will ensure that governments and communities continue to have the information they need to make a difference in the lives of young children and their families. The partnerships that have already developed, across education, health and community services, can continue to grow and build on the work already commenced.
Why use a population measure?
A population measure places the focus on the population or groups as well as the individual. The AEDC examines early childhood development across the whole community. Moving the focus of effort from the individual child to all children in the community can make a bigger difference in supporting efforts to create optimal early childhood development.
The AEDC can be used by communities, schools, policy makers, early childhood educators and health services, local councils and governments in conjunction with other resources (such as state and national statistics) to plan and evaluate efforts to support optimal early childhood development.
What other benefits does the AEDC have?
Research shows that the experiences and relationships that babies and children have during the early years strongly affect their future development. Providing the right kinds of services, resources and support during the early years brings life-long benefits to children and the community.
Teachers in Australia reported that participating in the AEDC raised their awareness of the needs of individual children and the class as a whole. They also reported that completing the AEDC assisted their planning for transition to school and developing programmes of work for their class.
Results from previous data collections have been used to help young children and families in a range of ways:
- Communities starting new playgrounds and parental services
- Schools seeing improved student performance through new literacy programmes and
- Governments using the data as evidence to develop better policies for children.
For examples of how AEDC results have been used by schools and communities, please refer to the school stories and community stories.