On 8 September 2021, the National Early Language and Literacy Strategy, a ground-breaking proposal in support of children’s language and literacy development, has been released calling on the Australian government to adopt a national strategy to ensure Australian children receive the best start in life.
As a key member of the National Early Language and Literacy Coalition (NELLC), ALNF has worked together with nine other coalition partners since 2018 to develop this comprehensive strategy, including Speech Pathology Australia, The Indigenous Literacy Foundation and the Australian Literacy Educators’ Association.
The early years of a child’s life (from birth to five years of age) are the most critical for speech, language and communication development and serve as the vital foundations for future success in education, employment, and life outcomes.
Right now in Australia, nearly 1 in 5 children are developmentally behind before they even start school, with research showing that children who start school behind, often stay behind.
This is made alarmingly evident by the fact that around 44% of Australian adults today do not have the functional literacy skills they need to cope with the demands of everyday life and work.
The proposed National Strategy aims to fill the existing vacuum in this space; Australia does not currently have a national strategy to support children’s early years’ language and literacy development.
The proposal examines the current scale of the situation on the ground in communities across the nation, and establishes a common understanding around early language and literacy development whilst recognising the importance of home languages.
Importantly, it outlines priority areas, objectives and proposed actions with careful consideration to the diversity of communities in Australia and the need for tailored approaches to specific population groups.
The National Coalition calls on the Commonwealth and State and Territory governments to adopt this proposed strategy and commit to the development of our children’s language and literacy skills as a national priority.
ALNF’s Co-Chair, Professor Tom Calma AO, has highlighted the crucial need for this strategy to be adopted to transform children’s early development and ensure they are given the vital skills they need to reach their full potential as adults and Australia’s future emerging leaders. He said, “All Australian children, from all walks of life and from all postcodes, deserve equity of access to quality early years learning environments that include and celebrate their families, communities, home languages, their cultures and their uniqueness.”
“The pre-schoolers of today are the youth and leadership of our future. Every parent wants their children and the children of Australia to be literate, well educated and great communicators. They want them to realise their full potential. A coordinated national strategy will create the systemic cohesion necessary for every child to benefit during those sensitive formative years before entering formal schooling.”
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