March 6, 2017

Understanding children’s communication and educational needs using Australia’s longitudinal datasets

Today Linda Harrison, Audrey Wang and I presented an invited seminar at the Department of Social Services (DSS) in Canberra. The presentation was titled "Understanding children’s communication and educational needs using Australia’s longitudinal datasets". The audience included people from the National Centre for Longitudinal Data (DSS) and the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet. The audience asked many questions and some asked for additional information following the presentation. It is great to see that our work is of relevance to members of the government who are responsible for developing policy.

Here is the abstract:
The Australian Government has funded research to create longitudinal datasets that provide valuable insights into children’s communication and educational needs:
  • Growing up in Australia: Longitudinal Study of Australian Children (LSAC) 
  • Footprints in Time: Longitudinal Study of Australian Children (LSIC) 
Researchers from Charles Sturt University have analysed these datasets, learning many valuable insights that have informed policy and practice. Insights to be profiled during the seminar, include:
  • Indigenous Australian children spoke between one and eight languages including: English, Indigenous languages, creoles, foreign languages, and sign languages. Children who spoke an Indigenous language were more likely to live in moderate to extreme isolation. 
  • Multilingualism did not contribute to poorer educational and social-emotional outcomes at school. 
  • The main predictor of academic difficulties at school was concern about 4- to 5-year-old children’s speech and language (regardless of monolingual or multilingual status). 
  • Children with speech and language problems in early childhood achieved significantly lower scores on every NAPLAN test (reading, writing, spelling, grammar and numeracy) at years 3, 5 and 7 compared to students without these problems. 
  • Most children with speech and language problems had not seen a speech pathologist. 
The profiled research has been funded by Australian Research Council Discovery and Future Fellowship grants and Speech Pathology Australia. Insights from Australian Government’s longitudinal datasets have been profiled in the national media, published in high profile international academic journals, and used to inform government submissions including:
  • Productivity Commission Inquiry into the Education Evidence Base (2016) 
  • Senate Education and Employment References Committee into Inquiry into the current levels of access and attainment of students with disabilities (2015) 
  • Senate Community Affairs References Committee into Prevalence of different types of speech, language and communication disorders and speech pathology in Australia (2014)