Data-driven decision making; using AEDC data to shape Shepparton’s future

by Freya Lucas

July 08

Communities are coming together to become more data-driven in decision making, Opportunity Child (OC) has said, showcasing one OC community as being “one of the leading places using data to shift power dynamics and to create better outcomes for the whole of community across generations”. 

 

The community in question is in Shepparton, 180 km north east of Melbourne, Victoria. One core project which is driving change in the community, OC said, is the Greater Shepparton Lighthouse Project, a small ‘backbone’ organisation led by Lisa McKenzie. 

 

Created in 2014 in response to community concerns about poor outcomes for the community’s young people, Lighthouse uses data, collaboration, innovation and systematic thinking to support children before they fall into crisis and at every step of their trajectory, from conception to career.

 

One major piece of the data puzzle used by Lighthouse is the Australian Early Development Census (AEDC), which provides high-level data at a community level, outlining the developmental vulnerabilities for children starting school. 

 

OC shared the following piece, written by Kristi Mansfield, Co-Founder of Seer Data and Analytics, who has been working closely with Shepparton and a number of OC communities. 

 

Ms Mansfield’s thoughts may be of interest to those working in the early childhood education and care (ECEC) sector as they seek to make best use of the AEDC data sets within their own contexts. 

 

The work below has been adapted from an original source provided to OC by Ms Mansfield, which can be accessed here

 

The latest AEDC figures were released in February and communities all over Australia are checking the figures, trend lines and comparing their results with other communities. How do we rate to similar places and what are others doing better than us to get our children ready for school?

 

For the community in Shepparton, this conversation is very important. The 2018 AEDC figures have declined on all domains and results are among the poorest in the state.

 

School readiness is a key factor to determine likely educational outcomes. It was raised in the Q&A that we can’t expect to use analytics to prescribe a likely future because life is complex and there are so many factors that contribute to the future. This is true, I agreed. There are many possibilities for change. A kind volunteer reading to a young person at Shepparton High School week after week for years is making the difference.

 

This is what the Greater Shepparton Lighthouse Project does. It looks for ways to support the community to change the trajectory for its young people and one big intervention is the deployment of 450 generous volunteers across primary and secondary schools to help with this generational shift.

 

One person asked about the relationship between the AEDC figures and NAPLAN results or other datasets. In our last analysis for the community led Leadership Tables, we saw a strong correlation between school readiness and parents reporting early speech problems. 

 

We blended the AEDC and VCAMs datasets to look for clues. We also found positive development in “Emotional Maturity” correlated with better literacy and numeracy test results (NAPLAN) right up to Year 9. This is a great conversation for people to have.

 

What does this mean? I think it gives community people better information to have conversations together. These are confronting conversations and not easy to have.

 

The Greater Shepparton Lighthouse Project and Executive Director, Lisa McKenzie, is using data analytics to inform their community conversations and community-driven interventions.

 

“There is so much local knowledge and insight, and the data analytics is a tool to enhance this knowledge. We have the data available to us and it is shifting power and gives the community more power to make decisions that are right for us.”

 

Shepparton has been leading the way in this movement. We’re working with 15 communities, all low income and distressed communities around Australia. People working to change their communities for good want to be data-driven in decision-making.

 

When we ask why is this so important now, people often say “because we realise no one is coming to save us.” In uncertain times, data gives greater confidence for making decisions, saving money and improving lives, and gives the community more power in driving its future.

 

To learn more about the Lighthouse project, please see here. For more information on AEDC, and how it may be used within your community context, please see here, and here

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