Researchers will track the progress of 12,000 children from birth to age five to identify what services are valuable to families to support the health and wellbeing, education and care of their children.
Professors Cate Taylor, Stephen Zubrick and David Lawrence from the Faculty of Education at The University of Western Australia and the Telethon Kids Institute are partnering with researchers from the Menzies Institute for Medical Research and the School of Social Sciences at the University of Tasmania, as well as three Tasmanian government departments. Together, they will conduct a ground-breaking project which aims to ensure every Australian child gets the best start in life.
The project has been made possible thanks to the support of the Department of Education (DoE), Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), and Department of Premier and Cabinet (DPaC) and a National Health and Medical Research Council Partnership Project Grant worth $800 thousand.
The findings will provide the outcomes-linked evidence needed to inform future early childhood service planning from pregnancy to the start of full-time school.
Lead researcher Professor Cate Taylor, said the key lessons learnt from this study were expected to guide other states and territories that invest heavily in early childhood services.
“One in five Australian children are behind in their development when they start full-time school at the age of five years, with twice as many children in the most disadvantaged areas doing poorly,” Professor Taylor said.
“We will work with our government partners, service providers and parents to develop a system-wide view of how early childhood policies and services impact children’s health and education outcomes.”
The Menzies Director, Professor Alison Venn, said Tasmania had amongst the most comprehensive early childhood health and education services in Australia, and this project aimed to ensure that these services continued to meet the needs of all children and families.
“The first few years of a child’s life lay the foundations for their future,” Professor Venn said. “The early years have life-long impacts on education, health, job opportunities, and social inclusion.
“Only when children’s pathways through services are known and linked to child outcomes can Tasmania begin to address service gaps and low usage rates, tackle inequalities and improve children’s health and wellbeing, education and care before they start full-time school.”
The research project, set to start in 2016 and report findings in 2019, will also gather further evidence on the effectiveness of, and outcomes from, the 12 Child and Family Centres (CFC) set up in Tasmania’s most disadvantaged communities.
A recent evaluation showed these Centres, which gather health and education services under one roof, had a positive impact on parents’ use and experiences of early childhood services and supports.
“The aim of these services is to support parents and families in giving young children every opportunity for a strong start in life”, Professor Taylor said.
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