Education inequalities mapped in new report
Monday, 18 January 2010
A report launched today in Adelaide is the first of its kind to map learning and development outcomes in South Australia against social and economic inequalities.
Understanding Educational Outcomes and Opportunities: An Atlas of South Australia highlights large gaps in the learning and development outcomes of children between the most economically and socially disadvantaged and the most advantaged regions, and sets a benchmark for the future performance of the state's early childhood and education sectors.
The Atlas is a joint project between the University of Adelaide's Public Health Information Development Unit and national independent children's charity The Smith Family, and is supported by the SA Department of Education and Children's Services.
The data in the Atlas will provide a clear evidence base to help schools, government and the community in future planning and policy development.
The Atlas will be launched this morning by the Minister for Early Childhood Development, the Hon. Jay Weatherill. Minister for Education the Hon. Dr Jane Lomax-Smith and CEO of The Smith Family Elaine Henry will also speak at the launch.
The Director of the Public Health Information Development Unit, Associate Professor John Glover, says the report paints a clear picture of the pattern of inequality in educational outcomes and opportunities and the geographic and regional variations.
It uses a range of population, socioeconomic and education participation and outcome indicators, and includes data from the recently produced Australian Early Development Index and school literacy and numeracy tests.
Despite generally favourable outcomes for South Australians relative to Australians overall, there are substantial differences within the population. These differences are most marked in remote areas of the State where socioeconomic disadvantage drives substantially poorer outcomes throughout people's educational life. There are also poorer outcomes in many of the larger suburbs and in areas of greater socioeconomic disadvantage within Adelaide.
"This is a situation that is both avoidable and unfair, but not inevitable," says Associate Professor Glover. "The socioeconomic environment is a powerful and potentially modifiable factor and public policy is a key instrument to improve this environment, particularly in areas of early childhood development and educational achievement, as well as housing, taxation and social security, work environments, urban design, sustainable communities and pollution control.
"Unless we want these inequality gaps to widen, we need to have targeted interventions, as well as more universal approaches. This Atlas tells us where those interventions are needed."
The Smith Family Chief Executive Officer Elaine Henry says the data from the Atlas will help expand opportunities for disadvantaged students, families and communities and help identify those in most need and where resources can be applied for greatest impact.
"Research tells us that one of the most effective ways to break the cycle of disadvantage is to ensure that children receive education and learning opportunities from early childhood and right through their schooling years so that they can realise their potential, regardless of their background or circumstance," Ms Henry says.
At the launch of the Atlas, The Smith Family will also announce the start of its Back to School Appeal to generate 3000 new sponsors for disadvantaged Australian children nationally. To sponsor a child call 1800 024 069 or visit: www.thesmithfamily.com.au
The full Atlas, including interactive mapping and graphics, will be available online at: www.publichealth.gov.au
Director, Public Health Information Development Unit
The University of Adelaide
Business: (08) 8313 6237
Mobile: +61 (0)418 801 876
Mr David Ellis
Deputy Director, Media and Corporate Relations
The University of Adelaide
Business: +61 8 8313 5414
Mobile: +61 (0)421 612 762
Senior National PR Advisor
The Smith Family
Business: 02 9085 7276
Mobile: 0414 903 621