Early Physical Development: Its fundamental importance to later academic success.

Deb Cavanagh1
1Elf: Education Linked To Families, Perth, Australia

A child’s first years of life, their physical health, the connections they form and the ECEC they receive has lasting impacts on future outcomes. Cassells R. et al, (2020). 90% of brain development occurs in the first five years. (ECA-ECEC-Policy-Statement-April-2019).Early predictors of success indicate that the child needs to be accomplished across more than one AEDC identified developmental domain -the domains are highly inter-related. Despite the 2018 AEDC showing that development of Australian children is improving, the social competence and physical health and wellbeing domains have small fluctuations; the percentage of children developmentally vulnerable was higher in 2018 compared to baseline. There is variance across the population, indicating further need to provide high quality ECEC that incorporate support for parents and carers (Jordan and Kennedy, 2019) as well as equity of access. Christian et al, (2018) examined physical activity in children aged 2 to 2.5 years found 66% of children don’t get required physical activity for growth and development. Research by Leonard, H. and Hill, E.L, (2015) identifies links between physical and cognitive development. Critically, Christian et al, (2018) found only 16 per cent of ECEC services had a written physical activity policy in place. Providing opportunities for children to learn alongside/with other young children, through age-appropriate experiences and intentional play-based activities facilitated by qualified educators is crucial. (ECA-ECEC-Policy-Statement-April-2019). It is our imperative to ensure children are at central to policy, focusing on the first five years with passion and as advocates.
This symposium will discuss : Educators need to understand why play based learning ignites and builds the neural pathways. They need to develop their understandings so they can clearly articulate to parents and ECE organisations that it is the provision of high quality, informed ECEC that ensure that early physical and language skills inform future academic learning success.

Deb Cavanagh is a Deputy Principal of an independent primary school for children in K-2 with Developmental Language Disorder and has attained Level 3 Teacher status with a focus on facilitating change for children at educational risk. Her passion and understanding of early childhood development has led to currently pursuing further study as an Allied Health Assistant in Occupational Therapy and establishing a consultancy business, ELF which aims to link early education to families, ensuring a common and consistent understanding of how young children develop prior to formal learning.