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ACER Principal Research Fellow Dr Dan Cloney gives a presentation.
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Experts call for stronger links between early childhood education and primary school

Media release 4 minute read

Differences in priorities and the language used to describe teaching and learning in early childhood and school are hurdles to children’s development, a conference in Sydney next week will hear.

Convened by the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER), Research Conference 2023 will explore how to improve the continuity of learning from birth to 12 years so that every child makes excellent ongoing progress.

It coincides with what Federal Education Minister Jason Clare has described as the ‘most comprehensive review in Australia’s history’ of early childhood education, including the recent establishment of the Preschools Outcomes Measure Expert Advisory Group, and public concern over the proportion of school children not meeting national literacy and numeracy minimum standards.

Advisory Group members Professor Sally Brinkman (University of South Australia) and Dr Dan Cloney (ACER) will address Research Conference 2023, alongside highly respected academics from a range of organisations, including:

  • Professor Anne Castles, Macquarie University
  • Dr Jenny Donovan, Australian Education Research Organisation
  • Dr Bo Stjerne Thomsen, LEGO Foundation

Speaking ahead of the conference, ACER Chief Executive Professor Geoff Masters AO said learning from birth to 12 years must be treated as cumulative and ongoing.

“A key to ensuring that every child makes excellent ongoing progress in their learning and development is recognition that individuals are on very different timelines and trajectories,” Professor Masters said. “Establishing where children are in their learning and what to teach them next depends on a frame of reference for doing this – a map of what long-term progress looks like.”

ACER researchers Dr Dan Cloney and Prue Anderson will address the development and use of these ‘maps’, known as learning progressions. They will share recent work on seamless progressions that describe the skills and understanding toddlers might show through to highly sophisticated skills and concepts developed across the school years and beyond. They will explain how to use learning progressions to tailor learning opportunities to each child’s needs – no matter whether they are in long daycare, preschool or school settings.

“It is not about starting the school curriculum sooner, rather the lower levels of a quality learning progression show how to support children to develop a strong foundation and monitor their ongoing growth,” Dr Cloney said.

Research Conference 2023 is at ICC Sydney from 3 to 4 September. Further information is available from


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