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Project status: In progress
Australian children enter school with widely different preparation for their ongoing learning and social participation. These differences reflect their diverse early experiences that have already played a major role in establishing children's life prospects. Outside the home environment, early education and care (ECEC) programs, such as long daycare, family daycare and kindergarten, are a key source of early experience. The experiences children have within these programs vary widely and impact upon children's development.
High quality programs have been shown to increase children's life chances, with greatest effects for those who are disadvantaged. These effects endure into adult life. In contrast, the absence of program has been found to predict poor progress and lower quality programs result in short-term effects, no effect, or even negative effects on children's attainment in the early years of school. Quality matters.
The study will examine ECEC programs in six diverse Australian communities including remote, regional and urban locations and those which allow a focus on Indigenous and disadvantaged children. The study will identify key components of quality within and across different program types. The contribution to child outcomes of different programs experienced by a cohort of approximately 3000, 3-4 year olds, will be examined. The children's on-going performance will be tracked from age 3 to the first wave of the national testing (NAPLAN) at age 8.