Early development tracking better in Greater Shepparton

Positive steps: Greater Shepparton has fewer developmentally vulnerable children beginning school according to the Australian Early Development Census. Photo by Megan Fisher

The Australian Early Development Census data shows improvement in all domains for children in their first years of school.

The census is done every three years to measure the development of children through the completion of a survey in their first (Foundation) year of primary school.

The results provide Greater Shepparton City Council with a picture of how well communities and families have supported children’s development in the years prior to school.

It includes assessment in five developmental domains, from physical health and emotional maturity to language and general knowledge.

The AEDC Community Profile also includes information on 14 ‘micro’ communities within the municipality, such as Mooroopna, Tatura, Shepparton central, Shepparton north west and Kialla, which allows a focused approach to improving early learning outcomes.

A report to the June meeting said the majority of these micro communities had seen a significant reduction in the level of vulnerability from 2018 to 2021.

Across the municipality, there was a marked reduction in developmentally vulnerable children across the five domains, but the region remains above the state average for the number of developmentally vulnerable children.

Percentage of children developmentally vulnerable in Greater Shepparton
YearPhysical health and wellbeingSocial competenceEmotional maturityLanguage and cognitive skillsCommunication and general knowledge
Percentage of children on track
YearPhysical health and wellbeingSocial competenceEmotional maturityLanguage and cognitive skillsCommunication and general knowledge

Cr Seema Abdullah told the meeting there had been a visible improvement in all domains.

“It is really fabulous to see,” she said.

“That really shows that there is a reduced level of vulnerability experienced by our children, as we know from research investment in early childhood education saves money in the long term, it is a very cost-effective strategy to invest in early childhood.”

Council provides child healthcare and early education services, which have greatly expanded in recent years and will soon be supported by an early parenting centre.

“All of these developments are going to have an impact in early childhood development,” Cr Abdullah said.

Cr Anthony Brophy welcomed the positive shift after a decade of decline and said the work would continue to keep improving outcomes.

“We are coming from a very low base, so each increase would be a mini celebration, but I’m very wary that we are still behind the Victorian average,” he said.

“We still need to do some hard work.”

Cr Sam Spinks thanked the many organisations that were working to improve outcomes for our youngest residents.

“Even after this incredible result our kids are still way behind, so there is a lot of work still to do,” she said.