Over the last few days we have seen one report and one survey that shine a spotlight on early years children and their families.
Nuffield Health has published a new report called How are the lives of families with young children changing?
This review looks at two decades worth of evidence and aims to highlight the changing nature of family life and how this impacts young children now, and in their future. It reaches out to policy makers, asking them to look at the implications of family circumstances, economic security, development and wellbeing for children.
The report states that:
The current generation of children in the UK is the first in which the majority are spending a large part of their childhoods in some form of formal early childhood education and care.
It stresses the importance, therefore, that the early years environments provided for children support their development, growth and learning.
The report recognises the changing nature of the definition of ‘family’. It also examines changes in living, working and formal/informal care arrangements, and the lower likelihood of take up of funded entitlements by disadvantaged families and families with English as an additional language. It demonstrates the effects of poverty, advantage and disadvantage, stating that:
A recurrent theme in this review is inequality and gradients between advantaged and disadvantaged families.
Meanwhile, we have the publication of the findings of the 5 Big Questions survey set up by the Duchess of Cambridge in January this year. This asked the public for their views on questions relating to the Early Years.
The survey found that the majority of people are not aware of the crucial importance of the early years in a child’s life. As the Duchess of Cambridge has said:
They are about the society we will become.
There were results relating to parental mental health, feeling judged, parental loneliness and community support – all showing significant areas of need.
Both the Nuffield Health report and the Duchess’s survey have been published with the backdrop of COVID-19 and an extended period of lockdown. A time when support for parents and families was restricted, when vital regular healthcare checks couldn’t happen, and parents and carers - especially lone-adult families, were isolated. The impact of this on young children and their families is being seen as they attend their early years settings now.
It is heartening to see the recognition of the early years in children’s lives, although of course this is not new information. But the message needs to be repeated often, and both these publications serve to shine a spotlight on the crucial role of early childhood care and education as well as evidence the huge gaps that show how far we still have to go.
Edited by Jules