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Australian Early Development Census (AEDC) for schools and early childhood services

Understanding how children are developing when they start school can help schools and early childhood services focus their efforts and planning to meet the needs of children and families.

The AEDC provides a snapshot of how children have developed when they start school. It's also a reliable predictor of children’s wellbeing and education outcomes. Children who are thriving when they start school are likely to continue to do well. Once children fall behind in their learning they are more likely to stay behind.

The 2021 AEDC results show:

  • nearly a quarter (23.8%) of South Australian reception students had 1 or more developmental vulnerabilities; a 0.1% decrease since 2018
  • 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)
  • despite the slight improvements in the 2021 collection, the proportion of our children developmentally vulnerable has increased since 2009 and continues to be higher than most other jurisdictions
  • there are developmentally vulnerable children across all South Australian socioeconomic levels and geographic areas.

Why the AEDC is important

Education leaders and educators can use AEDC data and resources:

Each school’s data contributes to a complete community profile. Having a complete profile ensures the AEDC remains a reliable source of evidence. This evidence is used at national, state and community levels to inform policy, programs and services, to better meet the needs of children and families.

Find out more about the important role of schools.

Using the AEDC in improvement planning

The AEDC can be used as a reliable evidence source alongside other data to inform your school or early childhood service planning.

Using the AEDC results to inform your improvement planning can lead to positive outcomes for children. The Lower Mid North local education partnership of government schools and preschools experienced this. In response to their 2012 AEDC results, the local education partnership implemented actions focussed on supported playgroups across a number of local communities. This planned approach has contributed to a reduction in the percentage of children developmentally vulnerable in this region. The 2018 AEDC results showed a significant reduction in developmental vulnerability on 1 or more AEDC domains and 2021 data shows significant increase in the percentage of children developmentally on track in the communication skills and general knowledge domain. Watch their story in the following video to find out more.

Watch the AEDC Lower Mid North education partnership story

Video transcript – Lower Mid North education partnership story

Julie McInnes:  Small communities like this, play centres, it is all they have.

Petrea Smith: In South Australia, schools and preschools across a region of the state are grouped together. The Lower Mid North Partnership covers both the Wakefield Region and Gilbert and Valley Region. 

Cassie Hellier: Early intervention for children is really important.

Petrea Smith: The data showed that children were almost double the likelihood compared to the national average to be developmentally vulnerable in two domains or more. Spelt out in figures like that, it’s a big concern, big motivator for change.

Neil White: The areas that we saw that were going to be particularly important were connections with families and engagement with the community, and that's why we thought playgroups was the way to go.

Cassie Hellier: They had about 24 families show up to that first play group.

Neil White: Playgroups have always existed in some form, but the supported playgroups enabled that structure to be clearer and have more focused outcomes.

Petrea Smith: The Lower Mid North Partnership funded each preschool to pay a person to be the playgroup coordinator. Training for that person, a mentor. A key aspect, they would be supporting parents.

Julie McInnes: Pointing out the learning. They didn't know that Play-do could develop the child holistically. It's not just strengthening the muscles in your hands, it's actually that opportunity for beautiful language development and things like that.

Cassie Hellier: It comes one week at Riverton and one week at Saddleworth, and we found that that was the best way to get the most for all the families. Families actually value having someone who's qualified to give them the advice that they need.

Dale Gathercole:  The preschools decided that to support the journey in numeracy and literacy strengthening across our partnership that we would have a combined focus on dispositions such as curiosity and problem solving.

Parent: It's good. We just get to interact with them differently than what we would at home, and so we can just take away some different things, singing songs and different games.

Cassie Hellier: Parents having great social skills is really important for children to learn great social skills too.

Parent: It's good for the mums too. We'll get to have a chat, and sometimes you don't really get to get out and have a chat when you have kids at home, so good for everyone.

Petrea Smith: If families are on the move and transient, educators sometimes are too. The consistency of data really helps to get a handle on the people that you're working with and the families you're supporting.

Cassie Hellier: Over the time we’ve been running playgroup there's been several referrals to the OT, to speechies, to Healthy Families.

Dale Gathercole: It's very empowering because it's not just you reacting to what you're seeing and feeling, but you actually do have this actual data that you can track. The supported playgroups focus enabled us to offer a nature play group off site. Council picked that up. They won a grant using our vision. So that became a key strategy for us.

Petrea Smith: The difference between the 2015 data and the 2018 showed that there was an improvement across all domains, so this is a great source of encouragement to us in continuing this supported play group project.

Dale Gathercole: It's just such a wonderful thing to be part of that and try and make a difference for your local community and see those children grow. And that's really what it's all about.

[End of transcript]

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

Find out more about improvement planning

Read the AEDC user guide: schools.

Improvement planning information for:

Read stories from schools and communities.

Accessing AEDC data

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

School profiles

Schools that participate in the collection receive an AEDC school profile. The profile includes population level school results and information to help understand, use and share the data effectively.

South Australian Catholic and Independent schools can access their AEDC school profile by contacting the AEDC helpdesk on 1800 092 548 or helpdesk@aedc.gov.au.

Department for Education schools can access a copy of the 2021 AEDC School Profile on their School Improvement Dashboard in the SharePoint folder link.  Principals can access copies of the 2018 AEDC school profile through the Schools and Preschool Performance Reporting System (SPeRS).

School profiles are for school use only and are not publicly available.

National AEDC website

The AEDC data explorer is a free interactive data visualisation tool. This tool enables you to tailor how you see AEDC results for the community you are interested in. You can also find resources to help you use the data explorer.

Data is summarised in community profiles alongside other relevant demographic data to provide an overview of the contexts of children in each community.

The reporting, publication 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 explore their data on a familiar platform that can also overlay other relevant datasets like locations of services.

Understanding the AEDC

The AEDC provides schools with information about children’s holistic development.

The AEDC helps schools consider local issues that are likely to impact children’s development and wellbeing, and in turn the school and school community.

This information can help communities understand the environments and experiences that are shaping children’s development in the early years. Find out more about working with communities.

The AEDC measures 5 important areas of early childhood development called domains. Find out more about the domains.

Physical health and wellbeing

Children's physical readiness for the school day, physical independence and gross and fine motor skills.

Emotional maturity

Children's pro-social and helping behaviours, and absence of anxious and fearful behaviour, aggressive behaviour, and hyperactivity and inattention.

Language and cognitive skills (school based)

Children's basic literacy, interest in literacy, numeracy and memory, advanced literacy and basic numeracy.

Communication skills and general knowledge

Children's communication skills and general knowledge based on broad development competencies and skills measured in the school context.

Watch the understanding the data video

Video transcript for the understanding the data video

Value of the AEDC

Teachers across Australia value completing the AEDC data collection. Hear teachers tell their story about the value of completing the data collection for classrooms and beyond.

Watch 'the value of completing the AEDC for teachers' video, or read the video transcript.

Watch 'the value of completing the AEDC for classrooms and beyond' video, or read the video transcript.

Learn how to use AEDC data

Access the AEDC professional learning program on PLINK, the Department for Education's professional learning platform.

This program will give you a deeper understanding of the AEDC. It demonstrates how to use the data to support children’s development in your programs, policies, planning and partnerships.

This program will help you:

  • understand how to access and use AEDC data
  • reflect on what is driving or obstructing children’s development and learning
  • analyse AEDC data for change and improved outcomes for children
  • identify strategic partners
  • plan for programs, transitions and partnerships
  • identify issues, opportunities and key actions to inform improvement planning and policy
  • monitor and measure progress.

Real examples of practice explicitly connect AEDC data to quality (NQS and AITSL) and curriculum planning (EYLF and Australian Curriculum) to support improved development and learning outcomes for children.

The program is approximately 1.5 hours long and made up of 4 modules.

Resources

There are a range of resources to help understand and use the AEDC effectively in your planning and practice.

Get started by reading about:

This package of materials has been developed by a collaboration led by the Western Australia Department of Education, with the Association of Independent Schools of Western Australia, Catholic Education Western Australia, South Australian Department for Education, New South Wales Department of Education and the Telethon Kids Institute.

Below, you'll find:

Domain guides

AEDC domain guide: physical health and wellbeing

This guide supports early childhood education and care services and schools to gain a deeper understanding of the AEDC physical health and wellbeing domain. The guide can be used to inform early childhood and curriculum planning, quality improvement and strengthen partnerships with families and the community.

Download domain guide: physical health and wellbeing (PDF 3MB)

AEDC domain guide: social competence

This guide supports early childhood education and care services and schools to gain a deeper understanding of the AEDC social competence domain. The guide can be used to inform early childhood and curriculum planning, quality improvement and strengthen partnerships with families and the community.

Download domain guide: social competence (PDF 2MB)

AEDC domain guide: emotional maturity

This guide supports early childhood education and care services and schools to gain a deeper understanding of the AEDC emotional maturity domain. The guide can be used to inform early childhood and curriculum planning, quality improvement and strengthen partnerships with families and the community.

Download domain guide: emotional maturity (PDF 2.8MB)

AEDC domain guide: language and cognitive skills (school-based)

This guide supports early childhood education and care services and schools to gain a deeper understanding of the AEDC language and cognitive skills domain. The guide can be used to inform early childhood and curriculum planning, quality improvement and strengthen partnerships with families and the community.

Download domain guide: language and cognitive skills (school-based) (PDF 3.2MB)

AEDC domain guide: communication skills and general knowledge

This guide supports early childhood education and care services and schools to gain a deeper understanding of the AEDC communication skills and general knowledge domain. The guide can be used to inform early childhood and curriculum planning, quality improvement and strengthen partnerships with families and the community.

Download domain guide: communication skills and general knowledge (PDF 2.1MB)

Key curriculum connections

AEDC key curriculum connections: physical health and wellbeing

This guide provides connections to key curriculum documents for the AEDC physical health and wellbeing domain.

Download curriculum connections: physical health and wellbeing (PDF 3MB)

AEDC key curriculum connections: social competence

This guide provides connections to key curriculum documents for the AEDC social competence domain.

Download curriculum connections: social competence (PDF 2MB)

AEDC key curriculum connections: emotional maturity

This guide provides connections to key curriculum documents for the AEDC emotional maturity domain.

Download curriculum connections: emotional maturity (PDF 2.8MB)

AEDC key curriculum connections: language and cognitive skills (school-based)

This guide provides connections to key curriculum documents for the AEDC language and cognitive skills domain.

Download curriculum connections: language and cognitive skills (school-based) (PDF 3.2MB)

AEDC key curriculum connections: communication skills and general knowledge

This guide provides connections to key curriculum documents for the AEDC communication skills and general knowledge domain.

Download curriculum connections: communication skills and general knowledge (PDF 2.1MB)

Supporting early childhood development guides

Supporting early childhood development guide: physical health and wellbeing

This fact sheet provides examples of behaviours through which adults can support children’s development of physical health and wellbeing.

Supporting early childhood development guide: physical health and wellbeing

Supporting early childhood development guide: social competence

This fact sheet provides examples of behaviours through which adults can support children’s development of social competence.

Supporting early childhood development guide: social competence

Supporting early childhood development guide: emotional maturity

This fact sheet provides examples of behaviours through which adults can support children’s development of emotional maturity.

Supporting early childhood development guide: emotional maturity 

Supporting early childhood development guide: language and cognitive skills (school-based)

This fact sheet provides examples of behaviours through which adults can support children’s development of language and cognitive skills (school-based).

Supporting early childhood development guide: language and cognitive skills (school-based)

Supporting early childhood development guide: communication skills and general knowledge

This fact sheet provides examples of behaviours through which adults can support children’s development of communication skills and general knowledge.

Supporting early childhood development guide: communication skills and general knowledge

Further resources are available for early childhood educators and teachers and principals.

How the AEDC team can help

The AEDC team can:

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

SA AEDC State Coordinator

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