Closing the gap on educational outcomes: Evidence from the E4Kids study on the impact of every day early Childhood education and care (ECEC) programs

Stream: Early childhood
Date: Wednesday, 11 September 2019
Time: 1.25 pm – 2.25 pm


This paper presents key findings from the E4kids study on the impact of everyday early childhood education and care (ECEC) programs on children’s learning and development. The sample of 2494 children was drawn from Victoria and Queensland. Children were recruited on the basis of age (mostly 3-4 years of age) and attending an ECEC program. A mix of low and high SEIFA areas were selected and ECEC programs were selected using a stratified sampling technique of all registered programs. Children’s cognitive outcome were directly tested on three occasions, the quality of ECEC programs and school classrooms were directly assessed in four waves of data collection (with over 2,000 rooms assessed) and families completed four extensive surveys covering family characteristics and circumstances and their children’s development. Children’s learning outcomes were further assessed through data matching with Grade 3 NAPLAN data. The main findings on ECEC (and early years of school) program quality were that most provided high quality emotional support and classroom organisation but low ‘instructional support’ which best predicts educational effects. The main finding of children’s learning outcomes were that there was a major gap in children’s cognitive abilities between children from low SES and higher SES backgrounds at entry to the study at 3-4 years of age and that this gap widened rather than narrowed to age 8, despite early ECEC experience. This is illustrated in the presentation in relation to children’s verbal ability. These findings set the level of challenge for governments in using ECEC program participation as a lever for closing the education gap in the crucial preschool years. Quality needs to be higher in the critical ‘instructional support’ domain.


Tim Gilley (Presenter), Brotherhood of St Laurence
Dr Tim Gilley has an extensive background in research, social policy and social work and early childhood practice. He is a Senior Research Fellow with the Brotherhood of St Laurence and Honorary Senior Research Fellow at the Melbourne Graduate School of Education (MGSE) at the University of Melbourne.