Early help could reduce regional kids' disadvantage

Early childhood educators are warning disadvantaged regional kids are falling behind.
Early childhood educators are warning disadvantaged regional kids are falling behind. Toowoomba Chronicle

A THREE-year-old child from a disadvantaged background has heard 30 million fewer words than a well-off child.

That can lead to a trouble reading, poorer results and a higher chance of not finishing Year 12, according to a leading education researcher.

This paper revealed, as part of the Fair Go For Our Kids campaign, that regional Queensland's youth are less likely to finish Year 12 than those in Brisbane.

A coalition of early childhood educators has pointed to shocking statistics revealing more regional Queensland kids are already disadvantaged when they start Year 1 than in Brisbane.

The 2015 Australian Early Development Census reveals the percentage of developmentally vulnerable five year olds in regional Queensland is significantly higher than in Brisbane.

The areas of disadvantage the AEDC measures are physical health and wellbeing, social competence, emotional maturity, language and cognitive skills and communication skills and general knowledge.


The statistics show in inner Brisbane 18.3 per cent of children faced at least one area of disadvantage when they started Year 1. The figures for regional areas were worse.

It was 31.4 per cent in Ipswich; 21.1 per cent on the Sunshine Coast, 26 per cent in Toowoomba, 30.2 per cent in the Wide Bay, 30 per cent on the Darling Downs and Granite Belt, 27.8 per cent in Central Queensland, 23.5 per cent in Mackay and 29.1 per cent in the Far North.

Early Learning and Care Council of Australia - including Goodstart Early Learning, C&K Childcare and Kindergarten, G8 Education, Foundation Early Learning, Affinity Education Group and Guardian Early Learning Group - have written to the Labor Party, LNP, One Nation and the Greens urging them to commit to spending more on early education.

They are calling for funding to provide kindergarten for four year olds to be locked in and extended to cover three year olds.

Goodstart advocacy manager John Cherry said better access to early childhood education could help disadvantaged kids across regional areas.

"Country Queensland is well behind city Queensland" he said.

"In regional Queensland, there are barriers to entry in that we need to break down one by one."

Mr Cherry said for many regional Queensland parents, early childcare was simply too expensive or inaccessible.

He said Education Minister Kate Jones had "expressed support" for their cause but had focused on schools this term, while shadow education minister Tracy Davis "hasn't said a word" about the issue.

"We're just so frustrated in Queensland, we just don't hear anything in this election about early childhood education," he said.

Grattan Institute education researcher Peter Goss said socio-economic status and a parent's level of education could put a child behind from before they went started school.

Mr Goss said disadvantaged families, on average, spoke to their children less than rich families.

"A child from a less well-off family has, on average, heard 30 million fewer words by the time they are three than a child from a well-off family," he said.

"When a child comes to learn how to read, if they already know the word they are more likely to understand it when written. So, kids who haven't heard as many words are immediately at a disadvantage.

Mr Goss said better early childhood education was an important step in helping children keep up.

"Having two years of kindergarten is better than one," he said.

"But unfortunately, in Australia the kids who need it the most are getting it the least."- NewsRegional

Topics:  early childhood education fairgoforourkids goodstart early learning grattan institute politics qldelection2017

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