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Access to Early Learning evaluation

  • The Access to Early Learning (AEL) program gives young children experiencing vulnerability access to quality early learning experiences, both in universal education and care services and at home. It targets three-year-old children and their families experiencing vulnerability, and promotes high and sustained participation in education and care, which is vital for boosting children’s future learning and development outcomes. AEL also strengthens the home learning environment and removes barriers to accessing education and care services for other children and their families.

    AEL first began in 2011 and is currently delivered in seven sites across Victoria. Since its inception, the program has accumulated rich knowledge, data and proof about its immediate impact on young children and their families experiencing vulnerability, and how to achieve these effects. Unfortunately, the program’s reach is limited and many children in Victoria who would benefit the most, do not attend (or do not attend enough) quality education and care services. The Victorian Department of Education and Training (the Department) remains committed to tackling this issue through various policy initiatives.

    AEL Evaluation (2014-2017)

    An evaluation of AEL was undertaken by the Centre for Community Child in collaboration with Deakin University. The purpose of the evaluation was to assess the efficacy of the AEL model in the delivery of outcomes for children and families. The evaluation concluded in 2017.

    The evaluation aims were to:

    • assess the impact of the AEL model on outcomes for vulnerable children and families, changes in early childhood education and care practice, and changes to the broader service systems
    • assess the return on investment
    • outline adaptations that could be made to enhance the model.

    The evaluation found the key benefits of AEL include:

    • increased enrolment of children experiencing vulnerability in kindergarten
    • high kindergarten attendance levels for children experiencing vulnerability (on average, children attend more than 80 per cent of enrolled hours)
    • successful transition to kindergarten in the year before school and to school
    • improved parent understanding, confidence and capacity to respond to their children’s learning needs
    • stronger links between families and educators
    • increased educator understanding and capacity to respond to barriers around engaging children and families experiencing vulnerability
    • increased collaboration between services supporting families and children experiencing vulnerability.

    AEL Monitoring and Evaluation (2019-2022)

    An opportunity currently exists to expand the uptake of AEL through the Participation Access and Learning Facilitator (PALF) model, now available in the Department’s School Readiness Funding Menu of Evidence Informed Programs and Supports. There is also the opportunity to understand the longer-term benefits of the AEL model. In this context, the Department is seeking expert advice to inform ongoing program evaluation, monitoring and reporting for the AEL program and the PALF initiative focusing on:

    • updating the existing AEL program logic, especially in regard to the in-home learning and medium- and longer-term outcomes
    • developing an ongoing evaluation, monitoring and reporting framework for AEL and PALF, including data sources and longer-term outcomes into school
    • developing new monitoring tool(s)
    • developing products to communicate the rich knowledge, lessons and evidence of AEL
    • providing quarterly and annual data reports and associated PowerPoint materials for AEL, and
    • potentially additional data collation, analysis and reporting for PALF sites.



Murdoch Childrens Research Institute

The Centre for Community Child Health is a department of The Royal Children’s Hospital and a research group of Murdoch Childrens Research Institute.