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The Australian Early Development Census (AEDC) is a national progress measure of early childhood development at the time children commence their first year of full-time school.
It is conducted every three years, with the 2024 collection being the sixth collection in the series. The Social Research Centre has provided services related to data collection, data management and engagement resource development since the second collection.
The Social Research Centre leads a consortium which includes the Telethon Kids Institute and the Centre for Community Child Health at the Royal Children’s Hospital to deliver the AEDC program on behalf of the Australian Government Department of Education.
The AEDC reports on the percentage of developmentally vulnerable, at risk and on track children across five key developmental areas for communities across Australia, so that communities, parents, schools and governments can pinpoint the services, resources and support children need to help shape the future and wellbeing of Australian children.
AEDC results are shaping the design and application of early childhood programs and policies with the aim of making sure children are offered a safe, nurturing and learning environment where they can grow and thrive.
Teachers complete an online research tool, the Australian version of the Early Development Instrument, for each child in their class. The Instrument measures five key areas of early childhood development, which are predictors of adult health, education and social outcomes.
1 in 5
Around 1 in 5 children were developmentally vulnerable in one or more domain in 2021.
4 in 10
Indigenous developmental vulnerability has decreased from 47% in 2009 to 42% in 2021.
Of children were developmentally on track in all five domains in 2021.
Teachers of children in their first year of full-time school, from government, Catholic and independent sector schools across Australia, complete the Australian version of the Early Development Instrument for each child in their class.
Teachers are supported by an AEDC school coordinator and a may have access to a First Nations Cultural Consultant to support the completion of the Instrument for first nations children in their class.
An investment in our children is a commitment to the future of our country and the long term health of our economy. That is why the Australian Government invests so significantly in the early years. To ensure this investment is directed to the areas of need, strong evidence is required to guide decisions on policy. One source of that evidence comes from the data collected by the Australian Early Development Census (AEDC). Governments at all levels and community organisations have been using this data to inform early childhood development policy and practice. Read the full public benefits statement on the AEDC website here.
Teachers complete the Australian version of the Early Development Instrument (similar to a questionnaire) for children in their first year of full-time school using a secure data entry system. The Instrument is completed based on the teacher’s knowledge and observations of the children in their class. Children are not required to be present while teachers complete the Instrument. Schools are provided with funding for teacher relief time – it takes teachers around 20 minutes per student to complete each Instrument.
What is the AEDC?
The Australian Early Development Census (AEDC) is a population-based measure of how children in Australia have developed by the time they start their first year of full-time school. Teachers complete a research tool, the Australian version of the Early Development Instrument (the Instrument) for each child in their class. The Instrument measures five key areas, or domains, of early childhood development:
These areas are closely linked to the predictors of adult health, education and social outcomes.
The Council of Australian Governments (COAG) has endorsed the AEDC as a national progress measure of early childhood development in Australia.
What type of research is the AEDC data used for?
AEDC data is used by researchers and policy makers to guide decision-making and planning and ensure resources and services are better targeted towards supporting the future and wellbeing of children and families across Australia. Click here to view the AEDC Research Priorities for 2021-2023 which provide strategic direction and a point of collaboration in building an early childhood evidence base that can be practically applied in communities and to policy formation. For summary information on past and present research projects using AEDC data click here.
Why is AEDC information collected?
The value of the AEDC is that it provides information for schools, communities and governments to pinpoint the services, resources and support for children and families to help shape the future and wellbeing of children in Australia.
The AEDC can also be used to monitor changes in the development of children in communities over time to understand how local circumstances might be changed to improve children’s life chances.
What other benefits does the AEDC have?
Research shows that the experiences and relationships that babies and children have during the early years strongly affect their future development. Providing the right kinds of services, resources and support during the early years brings life-long benefits to children and the community.
Teachers in Australia reported that participating in the AEDC raised their awareness of the needs of individual children and the class as a whole. They also reported that completing the AEDC assisted their planning for transition to school and developing programmes of work for their class.
Results from previous data collections have been used to help young children and families in a range of ways: