children Archives - Education Matters Magazine
  •      

Cyber safety: Keeping students safe online

Technology is changing the way educators teach and students learn. As children and young people navigate the online world, educating them about how to use technology safely and responsibly is key to creating digital intelligence and adequately preparing them for the world of the future.

Read more

Boys using an abacus, Shutterstock.

Changes to Tasmanian Education Act pass parliament

Tasmania’s State Government has reformed its Education Act in an attempt to improve literacy and numeracy rates.

The bill passed the Tasmanian parliament yesterday, bringing into effect the option for students to start school at four-and-a-half years of age, as proposed by Premier Will Hodgman at the beginning of 2016.

Previously, starting age in Tasmania was set to five years old – the oldest minimum starting age for schoolchildren in any state or territory of Australia.

After the act passed yesterday, Tasmania’s Education Minister, Jeremy Rockliff said the bill is part of a long-term plan to to improve education outcomes in the state, and that it “will help close the gap where currently Tasmanian students can receive up to two years less schooling than their interstate counterparts.”

However, not all Tasmanians are convinced that the change will be beneficial, with various interest groups raising concerns, including the Union of Childcare Workers and Early Childhood Australia’s Tasmanian branch.

A ‘Stop lowering the school age in Tasmania’ petition has been signed by 5,204 people, more than doubling in size over the past few months.

Preschool kids play instruments

Early childhood education awareness campaign launches in NSW

Last month the NSW Early Education Minister, Leslie Williams announced $115 million in funding for Start Strong, a program designed to make early education more affordable for all NSW families, while removing nearly all fees for Aboriginal families and low-income families.

Now the NSW Government is launching what is described as a ‘thought-provoking campaign’ that draws attention to the importance of early childhood education.

The campaign, dubbed ‘It Makes You Think’, has a stated aim of increasing the amount of hours children are enrolled in day care or community preschool in the year prior to entering primary school.

“A child needs a great parent, and a great teacher.  Many do not know that a preschool program, whether it’s in a dedicated preschool or a through long day care, provides the foundation for your children’s future health, happiness, growth, development and learning achievements at school and in life,” said Mrs Williams.

“It’s a confusing area and there are many myths about cost, availability and the real benefits to children – which is why it’s so important to break down the barriers.”

It Makes You Think campaign poster
The It Makes You Think campaign aims to drive awareness of the Start Strong initiative in NSW.

One of the key statistics underpinning the campaign is the fact that 90 per cent of brain development occurs before the age of five years – and this is the kind of detail that the NSW Government hopes will impress upon parents the importance of ensuring their young children gain maximum benefit from early education.

“Our social and emotional skills known as ‘soft skills’ are critical to success in school and life – for instance how to control emotions, take turns, share with others and pay attention to instruction, actually begin forming in childhood and learning these skills in preschool could prevent harder problems later in life,” explained Mrs Williams.

“Unlocking a child’s brain is the key to helping parents understand why early learning is such a must for their child’s development.”

Other Facts from ‘It Makes You Think:       

  • Kids who participate in early childhood education are more likely to have an IQ score higher than 90 at age 5
  • Preschool puts disadvantaged children at a level playing field with other children
  • In the first 3-5 years, there is a dramatic growth spurt, as approximately 90-95 per cent of cells organize and create pathways to more sophisticated brain functions
  • A child’s brain undergoes an amazing period of development from birth to 3 – producing 700 new neural connections every second
  • Young children have a unique ability to learn more languages easily and their vocabulary often quadruples between the ages of 2 and 4

Beginning in January 2017, the Start Strong initiative will deliver $115 in funding over 18 months to reduce the cost of early education and encourage parents to enroll their kids in 600 hours of early education each year.

School starting age lower

Tasmanian Government releases school starting age ‘fact sheet’

Tasmania’s State Government has moved to allay concerns that the proposed new starting age for schoolchildren could be detrimental to kids’ health.

Earlier this year, Tasmania’s Premier Will Hodgman announced the Government would lower the starting age from five to four years and six months, following a review of the Education Act.

At five years, Tasmania currently has the oldest minimum starting age for schoolchildren of any other state or territory in Australia.

However, Early Childhood Australia’s Tasmanian branch President Anne Barwick told The Mercury that the proposed change has “the potential to impact children negatively”.

“A high percentage of Tasmanian children access kindergarten – a non-compulsory year – and this change equates to children as young as three years, six months being integrated into a school environment,” she said.

Further concerns have been raised by the union for childcare workers, the Tasmanian Association of State School Organisations, Rural Health Tasmania and the state Opposition, causing the Government to respond with a new fact sheet on the initiative.

Education Minister Jeremy Rockliff announced the fact sheet, saying it aims to dispel concerns raised by detractors of the plan.

“The Government is proposing to lower the compulsory starting age for prep by six months — not 18 months as is being falsely claimed by some,” he said.

“This means instead of starting prep at the age of five, Tasmanians will start at the age of four and a half years. This is a very significant but by no means a radical change, this simply brings Tasmania in-line with the rest of Australia.”

Mr Rockliff confirmed Ms Barwick’s concerns, however, stating that parents will have the choice to send their kids to kindergartner sooner, starting at the age of three years and six months.

The Mercury reports that Opposition education spokesperson Michelle O’Byrne contends the initiative is not backed up by solid evidence.

“All that Tasmanians have been told by the Government is that the justification for changing the school starting age is that it will bring the state into line with the rest of the country … there is no definitive Australian school starting age.”

A “Stop lowering the school age in Tasmania” petition organised by United Voice has so far been signed by 2,561 people.

The school starting age fact sheet can be found on the Tasmanian Department of Education website.

School starting age lower

Tasmanian Government releases school starting age 'fact sheet'

Anne Barwick told The Mercury that the proposed change has “the potential to impact children negatively”. “A high percentage of Tasmanian children access kindergarten – a non-compulsory year – and this change equates to children as young as three years, six months being integrated into a school environment,” she said. Further concerns have been raised by the union for childcare workers, the Tasmanian Association of State School Organisations, Rural Health Tasmania and the state Opposition, causing the Government to respond with a new fact sheet on the initiative. Education Minister Jeremy Rockliff announced the fact sheet, saying it aims to dispel concerns raised by detractors of the plan.

“The Government is proposing to lower the compulsory starting age for prep by six months — not 18 months as is being falsely claimed by some,” he said.

“This means instead of starting prep at the age of five, Tasmanians will start at the age of four and a half years. This is a very significant but by no means a radical change, this simply brings Tasmania in-line with the rest of Australia.”

Mr Rockliff confirmed Ms Barwick’s concerns, however, stating that parents will have the choice to send their kids to kindergartner sooner, starting at the age of three years and six months. The Mercury reports that Opposition education spokesperson Michelle O’Byrne contends the initiative is not backed up by solid evidence.

“All that Tasmanians have been told by the Government is that the justification for changing the school starting age is that it will bring the state into line with the rest of the country … there is no definitive Australian school starting age.”

A “Stop lowering the school age in Tasmania” petition organised by United Voice has so far been signed by 2,561 people. The school starting age fact sheet can be found on the Tasmanian Department of Education website.]]>

Little girl reading

Study: Preschool quality and attendance need urgent attention

A new report indicates that a significant number of early childhood education services do not meet minimum standards and that over 60,000 children start school with poor social skills and emotional wellbeing.

The document, entitled ‘Quality Early Education for All: Fostering creative, entrepreneurial, resilient and capable learners’, was published this month by the Mitchell Institute.

Drawing on a broad variety of research, including the latest ABS statistics on preschool education, the authors highlight the ‘unacceptable divide in both opportunity and outcome between the poorest and wealthiest communities, between cities and very remote towns, and between children from different cultural backgrounds’.

Perhaps most interesting is the statistic that one in three Australian children aren’t attending early education for the hours required to make a difference.

According to the authors of the report:

There are substantial differences between the way education experts and Australian families understand child development and early learning.

In particular, while experts see early education as a critical site of development and learning, families often see child care primarily as a place where children are looked after safely while they work or study.

A national campaign is needed to highlight just how important quality early education is for kids, not only for helping parents to work.

The full report can be found on the Mitchell Institute’s website, while a summary of the findings has been released via The Conversation.