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Australian Early Development Census (AEDC) data to support policy and planning for early childhood development

The Australian Early Development Census (AEDC):

  • is a nationwide census held every 3 years (since 2009) in government, Catholic and independent schools
  • is a measure of how young children have developed by the time they start their first year of full-time school
  • is a holistic measure of early child development at a community, jurisdictional, and national level
  • is predictive of later health and educational outcomes
  • is reflective of the environments and cumulative experiences of children in the first 5 years of life.

The AEDC is used as evidence to support policy, planning and action for health, education and community support. Identifying trends and pointing to where improvements are needed will assist in targeting policy, legislation, funding and services. The AEDC can assist all levels of government to develop flexible approaches that address evolving needs of children and families.

Why the AEDC is useful for policy makers

South Australia’s improvement in the 2021 census compares favourably to a national trend of increased vulnerability; however, our rates of developmental vulnerability continue to be higher than most other jurisdictions. Nearly a quarter (23.8%) of South Australian reception students had 1 or more developmental vulnerabilities in 2021, a 0.1% decrease since 2018. 

The 2021 data also shows a 0.5% improvement to 53.7% in the number of children who were on track across the 5 areas of development (physical health and wellbeing, social competence, emotional maturity, language and cognitive skills, communication skills and general knowledge).

Investing in the early years can reduce expenditure on special education, criminal justice and welfare, and increase national productivity by improving the skills of the workforce, reducing disadvantage and strengthening the global competitiveness of the economy.

In 2019 the South Australian Child Development Council established the South Australian Outcomes Framework for Children and Young People (PDF 1.11MB), which monitors, tracks and reports the outcomes of our state’s children and young people (birth to 18 years) in 5 dimensions: health, safety, wellbeing, education and citizenship. The AEDC is a measure in the education dimension of the framework. Find out more about the South Australian Child Development Council.

To improve life course health, development, wellbeing and education outcomes for South Australia’s children, all key stakeholders must work together to ensure that children and families can access the right mix of universal and targeted services at the right time in a child’s life.

With no significant shift in South Australia’s AEDC results over the last 13 years, the Office for the Early Years has been established to drive reductions in childhood development vulnerabilities. The office was established as a single point of leadership for early years services across government and to report on outcomes in the early years. The office will partner with key agencies including the Women’s and Children’s Health Network, the Department of Human Services and Wellbeing SA, as well as with local government, non-government organisations, universities and communities.

For more information, you can:

Informing your planning

Video transcript for informing your planning video

Understanding the AEDC

The AEDC provides comprehensive early childhood data at a community, jurisdictional and national level.

The AEDC measures 5 important areas of early childhood development called domains:

Physical health and wellbeing

Emotional maturity

Language and cognitive skills (school based)

Communication skills and general knowledge

The AEDC instrument questions are completed by teachers of children in their first year of full-time school. This provides a unique population level snapshot of child development that is being used as an important evidence base by researchers, policy makers, service providers, local governments, schools and early childhood education and care.

Find out more about the AEDC domains or download the 2021 AEDC questions (PDF 2.12MB).

Understanding the data video

Video transcript – understanding the data

Accessing AEDC data

The AEDC results are available at a national, state, community and school level. Results can be accessed in a range of ways.

National AEDC website

Data is available in the following formats:

To request other AEDC data contact the Data Management Agency via support@aedc.gov.au. For more information go to the AEDC contact page

The reporting, publication and/or analysis of AEDC data and results must be in accordance with the AEDC data guidelines.

Location SA

You can view interactive maps displaying 2018 AEDC results for South Australia on the Location SA map viewer. Metadata is also available for 2009, 2012, 2015 and 2018 collections providing information on children developmentally ‘on track’ in all 5 domains (OT5) and developmentally vulnerable on 1 or more domains. Additional data is being added to the platform over time (including the 2021 data) to help communities and governments to explore their data in a familiar platform that can also overlay other relevant datasets like locations of services.

Department for Education

Data on government schools may be available upon request. School level reports are not publicly available. Schools may choose to share their information with stakeholders to inform local policy, planning and programs. Find out more about requesting AEDC school data to inform policy.

Using AEDC data

The AEDC can help you keep children at the centre of your thinking when developing policy and planning.

Use the AEDC as an evidence base to:

  • inform policy and strategic planning
  • review services to ensure they are supporting families and children
  • examine solutions to barriers to access for families
  • inform resource allocation and use of assets
  • inform grant processes
  • inform collaborative approaches
  • plan responses to key national, state and local government strategic frameworks
  • evaluate the impact of policies and services
  • measure progress overtime.

The new 10-year Early Learning Strategy has been developed in response to the increasing percentage of children developmentally vulnerable in South Australia, recognising the importance of early childhood learning and development. This strategy seeks to provide strategic vision and direction across the early years system in South Australia through the new Office for the Early Years, in the Department for Education. Progress will be monitored over the next 10 years, including against the AEDC.

An example of how policy makers use the AEDC:

How you can get started using the AEDC for policy planning and development:

If you have an AEDC story to share, please email Education.AEDCTeam@sa.gov.au.

How the AEDC team can help

The AEDC team can:

  • help understand community results
  • help understand demographic factors that may be making a difference
  • support using the AEDC data.

Find contact details for the AEDC on their website.

SA AEDC State Coordinator

Email: Education.AEDCTeam [at] sa.gov.au