An early childhood education advocacy group has called on the ACT Government to establish scholarships and an innovation fund to support greater access to early education for children experiencing disadvantage in the ACT.
The Children First Alliance, a group of 10 not-for-profit organisations that operate early childhood services in the ACT, has developed a pre-budget submission for the ACT Government calling on additional investment in the early education sector.
The Alliance are particularly seeking funding for scholarships to support children experiencing disadvantage to access early childhood services, with evidence from the Australian Early Development Census that 1 in 5 children in the ACT are starting school developmentally vulnerable.
According to the AEDC, In the ACT from 2012 to 2015, there was a significant increase in the percentage of children developmentally vulnerable on the social competence (8.6% to 9.4%), emotional maturity (7.2% to 8.2%) and language and cognitive skills domains (3.9 % to 5.9%).
The results of the AEDC are significantly worse for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in Canberra, with 41% of Indigenous children starting school developmentally vulnerable.
Co-Chair of the Alliance Amanda Tobler said, “Children who start school at a disadvantage are more likely to fall further behind throughout their schooling. Children who have access to Early Childhood Education and Care are less likely to be developmentally vulnerable when starting school.”
The Alliance is also seeking an innovation fund that will explore new ideas to support access for the children who can most benefit from higher levels of participation.
“For these families, additional support is required and this support has to take into consideration the local and specific needs of different communities,” said Alliance Co-Chair Darren Black.
The ACT Government is currently undergoing a Future of Education Review, which includes a focus on early childhood education and development.
Disclosure: Northside Community Service, which publishes The Framework, is a founding member of the Children First Alliance.