NEW analysis from Victoria University’s Mitchell Institute has found that a quarter of children in the seat of Gippsland start school developmentally vulnerable – compared to one in nine in the wealthy bayside and independent battleground electorate of Goldstein.

The seat of Gippsland has the second lowest access to childcare in the state, behind Casey.

The analysis looked at electorates across the country to find out the highest rate of children with development vulnerability at the start of school.

The Northern Territory seat of Lingiari fared the worst, with 46.1 per cent of children vulnerable, and the seat of Gippsland ranked 26th, with 26.8 per cent of children vulnerable.

The Mitchell Institute has mapped by electorate the childcare cost and availability, and the development vulnerability of children when they start school.

It also analyses the major parties’ policy offering.

Author Dr Peter Hurley, education policy lead at Victoria University’s Mitchell Institute, found a trend towards electorates with high rates of developmentally vulnerable children having a shortage of childcare places available.

“While evidence shows early learning can overcome disadvantage and assist children to ‘catch up’ before starting school, this analysis shows a trend towards lower availability of childcare in the electorates with the highest rates of child development vulnerability,” Dr Hurley said.

“This is a really big problem because there is a lot of evidence that shows children who start school behind, stay behind.”

Dr Hurley also analysed childcare affordability by electorate, showing the most expensive childcare in Victoria was found in the wealthy inner-city and bayside seats of Kooyong, Higgins, Goldstein and Macnamara.

These seats also had some of the most number of childcare places per child – for those who could afford it.

Dr Hurley said childcare was a major issue in the recent Federal election.

“The high cost and poor access to childcare is a limiting factor for women returning to the workforce and for families boosting their income to meet the rising cost of living, so it is no surprise that it became an election issue,” he said.

Mitchell Institute estimates that the average out-of-pocket fees for the first child in childcare, using the average of 30 hours per week, is around $5000 per year.

This is more than the average fees to a private primary school.

“On average 6000 families in every electorate use the childcare system. Parties are competing to demonstrate to these families their credentials to manage the many problems in the sector,” Dr Hurley said.

“Educators are the backbone of the early childhood system, but low pay has led to a high number leaving their job and the sector is struggling with workforce shortages.”

Failure to address the low pay of childcare educators has resulted in poor retention, with the new analysis showing a record number of job vacancies and limited ability to fill them.