KU’s investment in research continued during 2020 with engagement at various stages of 45 partnered investigations, including three Australian Research Council funded projects and five PhD studies. Several investigations supporting assessment and early intervention for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder continued at KU Marcia Burgess Autism Specific Early Learning and Care Centre, funded by the Australian Department of Social Services. Our research agenda contributed positively to making a social impact, with several studies concentrating on equity and access, as well as studies that added to the body of pedagogical evidence to support quality practice.

COVID-19 presented some challenges for research activities with several studies temporarily being unable to progress. However, we continued to be valued partners in many projects through the development and proposal stages. A dissemination and translation framework has been developed to support knowledge exchange and build a culture of interpreting evidence into pedagogy, practice, decision making and advocacy.

A notable study was Equitable Access to High Quality Early Childhood Education, conducted by the Social Policy Research Centre, University of NSW, and funded by the Gonski Institute of Education. Delphi-style consultations and interviews with key stakeholders identified high quality practice in communities experiencing adversity and disadvantage. It culminated in an impactful report and presentation that highlighted aspects of effective engagement in early childhood education. This significant study has benefit for the sector and policy makers to deliver resources that support successful participation of families with complex needs. Importantly, the study highlights effective service structures and characteristics in terms of approachability, acceptability, availability, affordability and appropriateness, and cross cutting issues including interagency collaboration, practitioner skills and training, data and monitoring. This will help KU and the sector to evaluate provision and practice from the perspective of families.

The findings and recommendations of KU’s investment in a major internal research study, Leadership and Innovation in the 21st Century: Future-proofing early childhood organisations, were presented to the Board and Executive towards the end of the year. The findings and recommendations will help shape the development of KU’s Leadership Program over the next few years.