NATIONAL EARLY LITERACY PRE-SUMMIT DISCUSSION
Be part of the discussion: 5 questions to inform the summit
The aim of the National Early Literacy Summit is to spark debate about what a National Early Literacy Strategy for Australia might include and how it would help deliver the best results, building on existing work such as the Australian Literacy Educators’ Association’s Declaration of Literacy in 21st Century Australia and Victorian Libraries' Reading and Literacy for All.
With this aim in mind, we ask you to help us answer five questions, each in 100 words or less.
- How important is reading and writing in a digital society?
- What is a reasonable expectation of literacy – are we doing the best we can?
- How can we most effectively support all children in their literacy development?
- What role should government play?
- What is missing?
We are looking for short, tight, insightful responses which we can circulate to participants in advance of the summit.
You can either send us your responses in an email or as a Word document attachment to firstname.lastname@example.org or follow this link to our online questionnaire. Please let us know your thoughts by close of business Friday 26 February 2016.
Thank you for being part of this initiative. We hope you will be able to join us at the Summit in March – register here – but if you cannot be there in person, a summary report of the discussion will be published on our website in April 2016.
Framework for discussion
Australia’s National Early Literacy Summit will take place in Canberra on 7 and 8 March 2016. The event will feature leading experts on early childhood development, leading practitioners in education, libraries and pre-school, and organisations working with some of the most vulnerable families in our communities.
It is hoped that this event will be a game-changer in terms of collaboration and cooperation between agencies working in the field. We will not only be sharing the very latest thinking around early literacy and how we can use this to break the cycle of disadvantage, we will also be discussing the foundations of a national agenda to ensure that early literacy occupies its rightful place as one of our nation’s highest priorities. And this national agenda will support the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals, announced late last year.
- Goal 4 Quality Education: By 2030, ensure that all girls and boys have access to quality early childhood development, care and pre-primary education so that they are ready for primary education. https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org
A focused national agenda
The professionals reading this will understand the importance of early literacy for children, for families, for society and for Australia’s future in the global knowledge economy. The opportunities provided by the excellent local and state-based programs already being delivered around Australia form the basis for conversations at the National Early Literacy Summit. However, there are issues that we need to overcome.
The Australian Early Development Census (AEDC) in 2012 found that nearly one in five children aged five years in Australia was developmentally vulnerable or at risk of not developing the basic literacy skills they need to be able to read and write as an adult. The 2015 AEDC results will be released in March 2016. https://www.aedc.gov.au/resources/detail/aedc-2012-summary-report
Responsibility for early childhood education and care is shared across federal, state/territory and local government. The delivery of early childhood education and care is in the hands of many different agencies – kindergartens, playgroups, health, social services, schools, libraries. These factors result in competing priorities, duplication of effort and a lack of clarity in relation to the outcomes for children. They inhibit the creation of a national agenda and the sharing of knowledge about effective programs that can achieve the best results for individuals and the nation.
Working collaboratively, we can address the complexities of the sector and turn a confusion of competing programs into a multi-faceted approach to delivering a focused national agenda. As well as benefiting families and communities, this has the potential to make a significant improvement to Australia’s economic performance.
In 2014, PwC released a report estimating the benefits to GDP for children receiving a quality education and care program of up to $10.3 billion and of increased participation of vulnerable children at $13.3 billion (cumulative to 2050). http://www.pwc.com.au/publications/early-childhood-education.html
Who sets the agenda
While much has been achieved at state, territory and local level, the closest we have to an Australian government-endorsed national agenda for early literacy is the Council of Australian Governments’ 2009 Early Years Learning Framework for Australia. https://docs.education.gov.au/system/files/doc/other/belonging_being_and_becoming_the_early_years_learning_framework_for_australia.pdf
- Through its National Literacy Trust (an independent charity), the UK has the Vision for Literacy 2025 http://www.literacytrust.org.uk/policy/forum; and an All-Party Parliamentary Group on Literacy http://www.literacytrust.org.uk/policy/appg.
- In 2014, there was a White House Summit on Early Childhood Education, hosted by President Obama https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2014/12/10/fact-sheet-invest-us-white-house-summit-early-childhood-education, at which ‘Invest in US’ was launched, as a public private partnership to support better education outcomes for early years.
- The Canadian National Strategy for Early Literacy, produced by the Canadian Language and Literacy Research Network (independent researchers hosted by Western University), was tabled in the Canadian Parliament in 2009. http://eyeonkids.ca/docs/files/national_strategy_for_early_literacy_report%5B1%5D.pdf
With a federal election ahead of us in 2016, it will be interesting to see what the main political parties will have to say about early childhood education and literacy.