Front Project AEDC analysis shows children in remote and regional areas are vulnerable
The Sector > Research > Understanding Children > Front Project AEDC analysis shows children in remote and regional areas are vulnerable

Front Project AEDC analysis shows children in remote and regional areas are vulnerable

by Freya Lucas

May 11, 2022

A new report, released this morning by The Front Project, has conducted in depth analysis into data from the most recent Australian Early Development Census (AEDC) finding that children in rural, remote and regional areas have higher rates of developmental vulnerability compared with their peers in metropolitan areas. 


The AEDC data showed that nationally more than 63,000 children were assessed on starting school as being developmentally vulnerable in one or more domains. The Front Project report, Supporting all children to thrive – The importance of equity in early childhood education, explores in detail where these children live, their circumstances and what more can be done to improve outcomes. 


“In Australia, a postcode should not be a factor resulting in increased rates of child developmental vulnerability, but as our analysis demonstrates, that is unfortunately the case,” The Front Project CEO Jane Hunt said.


As well as those children who live with geographical disparities, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, children who have English as an additional language, and children in lower socio-economic communities also experience higher rates of developmental vulnerability.


Key findings from the report include: 


  • Children in the most disadvantaged socio-economic areas are twice as likely to be developmentally vulnerable (33.2 per cent compared to 14.9 percent) and three times more likely to be vulnerable in more than one area (19.1 percent compared to 6.7 percent) than children in the most advantaged socio-economic areas.


  • The further you move from the city, the more likely you will be at risk of developmental vulnerability. Vulnerability in very remote areas soars, with nearly one in two children vulnerable on one domain (46.2 per cent) compared to one in five (20.8 per cent) in major cities.


  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children have high levels of vulnerability – 42.3 per cent are vulnerable on one or more domain compared to 20.6 percent for non-Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.


  • A greater percentage of children from a language background other than English experience developmental vulnerability in one or more domains (25.3 per cent) than children from an English- only language background (20.8 per cent).


“Too many children in these groups are being held back from their full potential, not because of lack of ability, but lack of opportunity and support,” Ms Hunt said.


The AEDC data classifies children as ‘on track’, ‘at risk’ or ‘vulnerable’, depending on how they score in each of five areas of development or domains: 


  • Physical health and wellbeing 
  • Social competence 
  • Emotional maturity 
  • Language and Cognitive skills
  • Communication skills and general knowledge


Children who are experiencing developmental vulnerability demonstrate a much lower than average ability in at least one AEDC domain. By Grade 3 developmentally vulnerable children are typically a year behind their peers when measured on NAPLAN testing. 


By Grade 5 the children who measured as developmentally vulnerable are, on average, two years behind their peers on NAPLAN. 


Evidence shows that these students are, in turn, less likely to finish school, and are more likely to experience unemployment and ill-health throughout their lives.

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