Children who go to preschool have lower levels of developmental vulnerability
A data analysis of Queensland children has found children who attended preschool displayed lower levels of developmental vulnerabilities as measured in the Australian Early Development Census (AEDC).
The AEDC is held every three years when children are in their first year of school to establish scores relating to physical health and wellbeing, social and emotional maturity, language, and cognitive skills as well as communication and general knowledge.
Based on the 2018-2019 census, researchers from the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) Centre for Data Science and Children’s Health Queensland investigated the influence of preschool attendance and children’s development during the first year of full-time school based on aggregated data about geographical location and socio-economic factors.
Researchers defined developmental vulnerability as not being able to cope with the school day; being tired, hungry with low energy; unable to get along with others or aggressive behaviour; and trouble with reading, writing or numbers.
Their findings varied by region, with the identification of three distinct clusters, characterised by different social demographic variables including country of birth, English as the primary language, remoteness, and socio-economic disadvantage. The preschool programs in the research held at both dedicated preschools and long day care centres.
“Our analysis demonstrated that children who had attended preschool displayed lower levels of developmental vulnerability in comparison to those who had not,” said PhD researcher Wala Draidi Areed.
“Children who had attended preschool displayed lower levels of developmental vulnerability in comparison to those who had not.”
Recommendations from the research include:
- Establishing collaborative committees for regular communication and information sharing
- Ensuring secure data exchange with privacy measures in place
- Promoting interprofessional training for healthcare professionals and educators
- Embedding health promotion activities in schools
- Engaging families, and community organizations in joint efforts.
In 2021, 85 per cent of all four-year-old and 22 per cent of all five-year-old children were enrolled in preschool programs in Australia. Queensland’s overall preschool participation rate was the lowest among all Australian states and varied geographically.
Distinguished Professor Kerrie Mengersen, who is the Director of QUT’s Centre for Data Science, said the results emphasised a need for health and education sectors to target specific areas.
Data for the 2021 census were not available at the time of the study. Future research is proposed to compare results and ascertain if the trend has changed over time.
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