No one gets left behind: Managing early learning equity and COVID-19

Myra  Geddes1, Dr Kate Liley1

1Goodstart Early Learning, Brisbane, Australia


There is a strong and positive relationship between pre-school attendance and children’s development at school entry as measured by the Australian Early Development Census (AEDC).

This positive relationship is especially true and essential for those children and families experiencing disadvantage with family type, income, parental employment status and educational attainment all having a significant influence on AEDC domains and the child outcomes they represent.

Before COVID-19, the early childhood education and care sector understood well the opportunities of universal service provision in supporting children generally, as well as a means of identifying those children in need of additional support. However universal service provision before COVID-19 was not without costs and barriers that could hinder children’s access and participation in early learning.

With the advent of COVID-19, research by Goodstart Early Learning indicates that the impact of the crisis has come to further challenge existing families experiencing disadvantage and, may now extend to families experiencing disadvantage for the first time through parental unemployment, COVID impacts and economic uncertainty. As a result, the impacts of COVID-19 are set to reverberate in future AEDC results and the community contexts they describe.

This presentation will discuss the growing body of quantitative and qualitative evidence captured over the course of 2020 through Goodstart’s national footprint of over 670 not-for-profit centres, that educate and care for 70,700 children from 59,200 families. With a focus on selected AEDC communities with high proportions of children vulnerable on 2 or more domains, the presentation will share the insights from family surveys, interviews with educators and case studies that inform the organisational and centre responses to the needs of disadvantaged families and their communities under pandemic conditions. These insights may inform the interpretation of future AEDC results by local communities and services.


Myra Geddes is General Manager – Social Impact for Goodstart Early Learning. Myra’s focus is on supporting Goodstart deliver on its purpose: to ensure all Australia’s children have the outcomes they need for school and life. She was the senior social policy advisor to two Australian Prime Ministers and has worked across EC education and care, schools, community services and health policy, at state and national levels. Beginning her career as a teacher Myra is committed to supporting those working closest with children and passionately believes in the power of early learning to transform children’s lives.