The electorate of Calwell is ranked number one in the state for the highest rate of children with development vulnerability at the start of school, a new study has found.
According to research by Mitchell Institute and Victoria University, wealth determines a child’s chance of success before they even start school.
Mitchell Institute education policy fellow Hannah Matthews said there were a number of determining factors on what defines a child as being developmentally vulnerable.
“They look at things like physical health and well-being, social competence, emotional maturity, language and cognitive skills, communication skills and general knowledge,” Ms Matthews said.
In Calwell, which takes in suburbs such as Broadmeadows, Craigieburn and Roxburgh Park, 32 per cent of children are starting school developmentally delayed or at risk of being behind.
Ms Matthews said the research reinforced how children from low socioeconomic backgrounds are disadvantaged in comparison to those from wealthy electorates.
“High quality early learning can help overcome that disadvantage. Having children attend childcare, attend preschool, attend two years of preschool instead of one, which the Victorian government is in the process of implementing, can help children catch up and overcome that disadvantage that they’re born into essentially,” she said.
Furthermore, a high number of communities in Calwell live in an area facing a childcare shortage.
“Being able to access it is quite difficult in Calwell because there’s just not the number of places available. About 72 per cent of people living in that electorate are in an area which is considered a childcare desert.”
Calwell Labor MP Maria Vamvakinou said access and affordability needed to be tackled by reducing the cost of childcare.
“Many parents I’ve spoken to want to go back to work or do more hours but are finding they actually lose money in child care costs if they work more hours to help pay the bills, ” Ms Vamvakinou said.
“This is neither fair nor sensible and is contributing to the developmental vulnerabilities and the lack of provision among vulnerable families.”
Liberal Calwell candidate Tim Staker-Gunn was contacted for comment.