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One in five children starting school have already fallen behind.

By AMY STOCKWELL.

If you want to make a lucrative investment in a futures fund, you should consider investing in our children’s future.

Last month, some important data was released about how well children are doing when they start school. Released in April, the 2012 Australian Early Development Index 2012 measured how well children across Australia are growing up – it looks at the social, physical and cognitive development of children in Australia who have just started school.

This research shows most children in Australia are on track in key developmental areas. Unfortunately, it highlighted 1 in 5 children starting school have already fallen behind in at least one of these critical areas of development.

Before our children put their uniforms on for the first time, we have a role to play in helping them to develop important skills to help them later in life.

Why is this timing so important? Why must we start before the bell?

International research shows that once a child falls behind they are likely to stay behind. Once a child falls behind, it is almost impossible for them to catch up to their peers.

To understand why, we need to look to neuroscience and the science behind early childhood development.

Every second of a child’s life, a staggering 700 new brain connections are made. By the time a child is 5, more than 80% of their brain has been developed. If a child receives the best support in these early years, they will grow up to be healthy, develop strong language and learning capacities, start school on the right foot, stay in school longer and lead a productive and fulfilling life.

While it is true, the blueprint for a child’s brain is drawn up by genetics, it is the experiences and relationships that babies and children have in their first few years that are the real building blocks for shaping a child’s future. These are the simple things like positive social and emotional connections that we can offer our children for free as frequently as we choose. The quality of our children’s earliest surroundings and the availability of positive experiences at the right stages of development shape their outcomes.

The family and friends that surround our children have a significant influence on our children’s development. The community that children grow up in, the care they get before they start school and the health services they interact with all play a role in supporting optimal development.

Science has given us a window of opportunity for brain-building: before kids start formal school. This is the time when we can have the best chance of ensuring our children learn the essential skills to support their transition to school and build the foundation for lifelong success.

If you return to work and put your child in care (and are lucky enough to find a spot!), whether it is family day care, community based care or formal care, it’s important to ensure what’s being offered is high quality. High quality means they offer a nurturing, caring environment with qualified educators who can support your child’s individual needs for attention and learning.

It’s a relative no-brainer that good early childhood education is good for kids. But this fact is not always enough for governments and industry to make the big investment required to ensure families can access affordable, quality early childhood education.

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There needs to be a bigger pay off for such a big investment. And thankfully, there is. It’s the economy.

Early childhood education not only benefits the children who receive care and supports families with their work life balance, but it also strengthens the economy as a whole.

In fact, government investment in early childhood education pays back up to $16 in economic benefits for every dollar spent.

How does this work? Firstly, there are the savings to the public of giving kids a strong start in their education. Quality early childhood education and care has been shown to reduce the need for remedial and special education, reduce incarceration rates, lower rates of teen pregnancy, and reduced health care costs. Kids grow up less likely to need public services and more likely to make positive social and economic contributions – and pay more tax in their lifetime (hooray!).

Secondly, quality care provides a financial boost to businesses. Reliable and accessible early childhood education increases parents’ ability to choose if they want to participate in the paid workforce and in further education. It increases workforce productivity, reduces absenteeism and decreases staff turnover in the workplace – effectively and practically improving the business’ bottom line.

The upshot is that the cost of government investment in quality and accessible child care is recouped many times over due to higher tax income, lower crime rates, and savings in health services.

Government investment in early childhood education is not just good for children. It is a smart investment for governments and businesses who want to deliver a healthy economy and support families choice to return to work. While the Australian Government has made substantial investment in child care affordability and quality over the past few years, more needs to be done to make it affordable and accessible for families.

The National Quality Reforms have been critical in raising the quality of early learning in Australia and ensuring children in care receive the best education and care from qualified educators in safe, nurturing and healthy environments.

We as parents can do everything for our children at home, but if the Government and business really want the best for Australia’s children and the best for our economy, they need to get in at the ground floor with early childhood education and care as this country’s next big investment opportunity.

Goodstart Early Learning is Australia’s largest early learning and care provider with more than 650 centres across Australia. The Goodstart team of 15,000 staff educates and cares for more than 73,000 children from 61,000 families nation-wide. Our mission is to provide high quality, accessible, affordable and community-connected early learning in our centres and partner and openly collaborate with the sector to drive change for the benefit of all children. We’re for children, not-for-profit and believe the first five years matter and last a lifetime.

This post is sponsored by Goodstart Early Learning.Comments on this post are just for this post. If you want to talk about the IDEA of sponsored posts or the choice of advertisers please click here. We will be reading all those comments too for feedback.

Do you think Government should invest more in early childhood education?

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