A new Mitchell Institute report has revealed the worrying extent of issues that need to be addressed in Australia’s early learning system.
The report – Educational Opportunity in Australia 2020: Who succeeds and who misses out? – reveals that some of the most vulnerable children in society are being put at a learning disadvantage with almost 22 per cent of five-year-olds not developmentally ready when starting school.
The report also found that that attending pre-school substantially increases chances that young children are developmentally on track.
The figures are even more alarming for those at a disadvantage with children from low socioeconomic backgrounds, Indigenous children and those in more remote areas twice as likely to be developmentally vulnerable.
Thrive by Five, a campaign to improve Australia’s early learning system, has been advocating to prioritise children as the country looks towards economic recovery. An improved system will give an economic boost as well as being beneficial for vulnerable children, struggling families and early educators.
Thrive by Five CEO Jay Weatherill said the report was yet another prompt to prioritise young children and improve the system for some of our most vulnerable.
“The developmental consequences of inequality in early learning are too significant to be ignored. Children are lagging behind and struggling to catch up to their peers through no fault of their own,” Mr Weatherill said.
“This report highlights gaps in the system that were present before COVID-19 and should be a wake-up call to all governments about the profound impact inaction will have on our future generations.
“These gaps are widening over time and for many they are gaps that will never be closed, so we need to make a change now more than ever.
“Children in remote communities were already in a bad position. They have now been thrust into even more difficulty as we see increased online learning and economic pressures leading to more disadvantage.
“We know that improving early learning will get more women into the workforce, provide educators with better pay and ease cost of living pressures on parents. It will also be a huge boost to the economy and make a difference for all Australians as we recover from the pandemic.”