Australian Early Development Census

The Australian Early Development Census (AEDC) is a nationwide census of early childhood development.

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About the AEDC 

The AEDC is a national assessment conducted every 3 years to examine how children have developed by the time they start school. It looks at 5 areas of early childhood development: physical health and wellbeing, social competence, emotional maturity, language and cognitive skills (school-based), and communication skills and general knowledge. 

The AEDC results are provided at the national, state/territory and community level.

For early childhood educators, the AEDC data can be a useful predictor of future development and learning. Alongside other data sources, the AEDC data can help educators to:

  • discover how well early childhood programs are preparing children for school
  • develop target resources and services to support children's and families' wellbeing. 

The AEDC was first conducted nationally in 2009. Around 300,000 children have been included in each collection of the AEDC, totalling around 1.5 million children. 

2024 AEDC

The 2024 AEDC cycle is currently underway. Data collection will take place from 1 May 2024 to 31 July 2024. The results from the AEDC will be published in 2025. 

The department has engaged the Social Research Centre (SRC) to conduct the 2024 AEDC. 

How the data is collected

Data is collected by teachers of children in their first year of school. Teachers respond to around 100 questions that measure early childhood development across 5 key areas known as domains. Children are allocated a score against the domains to determine whether they are developmentally on track, at risk or vulnerable. 

The domains are: 

  • physical health and wellbeing
  • social competence
  • emotional maturity
  • language and cognitive skills (school based) 
  • communication skills and general knowledge. 

Key findings for the 2021 AEDC

The fifth AEDC data collection was undertaken between May and July 2021. Nationally, data was collected on over 305,000 children in their first year of full-time school and from approximately 7,500 primary schools. 

The findings are publicly available. The data can be used to assist individuals and organisations with their work and contribute to early childhood education and care systems. 

AEDC data from 2021 provided insight into the early effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on children and families. 

Go to the AEDC website to view the AEDC National Report 2021. 

At a national level, the AEDC data shows the percentage of children who were on track on 5 domains decreased for the first time since 2009 (from 55.4% in 2018 to 54.8% in 2021) 

Results also show a slight increase in the proportion of children who are developmentally vulnerable: 

  • Children assessed as developmentally vulnerable on one or more domain increased from 21.7% in 2018 to 22% in 2021.
  • Children assessed as developmentally vulnerable on two or more domains also increased from 11% in 2018 to 11.4% in 2021. 

Results from the AEDC assist all governments to make the most informed decisions possible about where to target programs, especially in vulnerable and disadvantaged communities. They support governments’ implementation and monitoring of Closing the Gap targets for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and highlight the importance of investing in the early years, especially through high quality early childhood education and care and universal access to preschool. 

More information

Learn more on the AEDC website.