Report: Taking the first step in an inclusive life Experiences of Australian early childhood education and care
About this survey
Children and Young People with Disability Australia (CYDA) has been gathering feedback on educational experiences from its members via formal surveys since 2010. These surveys have consistently found that students with disability are excluded in their education. For the first time this survey has been undertaken to understand whether the same kinds of issues are experienced in early childhood education and care settings.
Survey questions were about the types of services and supports accessed, perceptions of resources available and training of professionals, whether children have experienced exclusion, seclusion or bullying, and aspirations in planning for a primary school destination. Responses were collected from May-August 2022, with respondents from all states and territories (with the majority from New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland). CYDA partnered with researchers from the Public Service Research Group, UNSW Canberra and Melbourne Graduate School of Education, University of Melbourne to analyse the data and prepare this report.
Some results of this survey are encouraging, while others highlight significant areas for improvement. Respondents are very positive about being made to feel welcome in early childhood and care settings, with 83% of respondents saying they agreed or strongly agreed that their child was made to feel welcome. Also, 78% of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that family or caregivers of children were made to feel welcome by early childhood and care settings.
But respondents also reported that staff are often stretched thin and do not necessarily have the expertise or training to work with children with disability. Respondents also indicated some concerning levels of bullying, exclusion and segregation taking place in early childhood education and care settings. One in five reported that their child had been refused enrolment, nearly a quarter said their child had been limited in the number of hours they were allowed to attend, nearly 30% reported exclusion from excursions, events or activities, and about the same number reported bullying from other children or staff. These findings suggest that there is an urgent need to better equip and support early childhood education and care settings to support children with disability so that they are included early and are able to benefit from the education and support provided. Without this, we are likely to see the same sorts of inequities perpetuated as in the past.
Dickinson, H., Smith, C., Yates, S., Faulkner, A. (2022) Taking the first step in an inclusive life – experiences of Australian early childhood education and care. Report prepared for Children and Young People with Disability Australia (CYDA), Melbourne.