Welcome to the fifteenth A Better Start Southend Research Bulletin, bringing you the latest on early years’ policy, practice and evidence around Diet and Nutrition, Social and Emotional Development, Communications and Language, Community Resilience and Systems Change.

Your regular update, produced by Rachel Wood, also shows how we are using these findings to influence our work in Southend as well as inviting you to help shape our work through your input!

If you would like to sign up to receive these updates, or have a question, please email abetterstart@pre-school.org.uk

Contents:
Early Years Policy and Aspiration (Social and Emotional)
Infant Educator Beliefs about Infant Language Development (Communications and Language)
Systematic Review of Breastfeeding Factors (Diet and Nutrition)
The Pitfalls of Evaluating Early Intervention (Systems Change)

Early Years Policy and Aspiration

Title: Stewart, K. and Waldfogel, J. (2017), Closing Gaps Early – the role of early years’ policy in promoting social mobility in England, Sutton Trust, Education Endowment Foundation

Research source: https://www.suttontrust.com/research-paper/closing-gaps-early-parenting-policy-childcare/

Publication date: September 2017

Our Summary: This report sets out to look at the current status of early years’ policy in the light of ‘what works’. It attempts to set out:

  • The strengths and limitations of where we are today;
  • To identify priority areas and key steps.

It also examines in detail:

  • Parental leave and parenting;
  • Early education and childcare; and
  • Financial support to households with young children.

The main focus is on ‘narrowing the gap’ at starting school, breaking the cycle of deprivation and social mobility.

It recommends the following:

  • That there should be a reversal of the direction away from quantity to quality;
  • Parental leave should be extended;
  • Parenting policies should be built on the research evidence;
  • Income support should be provided at an adequate level;
  • There should be a move towards giving early years teachers Qualified Teacher Status;
  • That the impact of offering 30 hours should be considered; and

The best available evidence should inform early years’ policy.

How we’re applying this in Southend:

  • The recommendations of the report will be used to inform the future development of our social and emotional programmes and services
  • Our portfolio contains a mixture of evidence and science-based services as well as innovations
  • Social mobility is an important consideration in all of the work that we do (e.g. in our Work Skills project)
  • We are seeking to support evidence-based practice through the development of a knowledge exchange facility

Help us help Southend

  • What other ways could A Better Start Southend support social mobility and the aspiration of the communities in which we work in Southend?

Let us know what you think by e-mailing abetterstart@pre-school.org.uk

Infant Educator Beliefs about Infant Language Development

Title: Degotardi, S. and Gill, A. (2017), Infant Educators’ beliefs about Infant Language Development in long day care settings, Early Years, DOI:10.1080/09575146.2017.1347607

Research source: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/09575146.2017.1347607

Publication date: July 2017

Our summary: This study looks at early years (under 2s) educators’ belief systems in relation to infant language development in Australia. Using interviews and grounded theory (categories of meaning) in order to develop a concept model which provided a means by which an ‘insider’ perspective could be obtained.

The study found that early years’ educators collectively viewed language development and language-learning opportunities as embedded within situational, relational and personal forces.

Previously studies had shown that staff have claimed that it is responsive care-giving which supports language development with needs being met by high quality practice. However, such studies have not been able to show how this learning takes place.

The educators in this study frequently emphasised attachment as a foundation where infants would feel able to interact with caregivers. They also identified book reading and singing as facilitators. They also identified that many educators’ knowledge showed that infants are capable of contributing to their own language development.

On the basis of these findings, the authors argue that staff belief is that ratios, staff consistency, qualifications and professional knowledge about language development impact its effectiveness.

How we’re applying this in Southend:

  • We recognise that infant’s social and emotional development can have an impact on language development
  • We are investing in reading programmes (e.g. Fathers Reading Every Day)
  • We are working closely with early years settings in the A Better Start Southend wards in order to support speech and language development

Help us help Southend

  • How else can we support the early years workforce in developing communications and language outcomes?

Let us know what you think by e-mailing abetterstart@pre-school.org.uk

Systematic Review of Breastfeeding Factors

Title: Santana, GS. Giuguani, SRJ. Viera, TdO. and Viera, GO. (2017), Factors Associated with Breastfeeding Maintenance for 12 Months or More: A Systematic Review, Journal de Pediatria, in press

Research source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28886401

Publication date: September 2017

Our summary: The objective of this systematic review is to synthesise information about the factors that are associated with maintenance of breastfeeding. In order to do this, over 1,000 articles were reviewed including seven cohort studies and twelve cross-sectional studies. The factor levels that were used were:

  • Distal (Level 1) – socio-economic and demographic characteristics (e.g. maternal age, and family composition);
  • Distal intermediate (Level 2) – Prenatal characteristics (e.g. previous experience of breastfeeding, and receiving dietary guidance);
  • Proximal intermediate (Level 3) – Delivery and postpartum characteristics (e.g. type of delivery, breastfeeding within the first years), and characteristics of the new-born (e.g. gender, jaundice, respiratory difficulties);
  • Proximal (Level 4) – characteristics of the women (e.g. family support, co-habitation and maternal BMI);
  • National and places of residence (e.g. place of residence, nationality, safety of neighbourhood residence).

As the result, the authors concluded that the maintenance of breastfeeding for 12 months or more is strongly influenced by contextual factors and some maternal socio-demographic patterns. Other factors also influenced the outcomes to a lesser degree.

How we’re applying this in Southend:

  • This systematic review will help inform our on-going service design of our breastfeeding services
  • We will use the identified factors to help inform our understanding of need (e.g. maternal obesity and those who did not or were not able to breastfeed in a previous pregnancy)

Help us help Southend

  • How can we find out if the factors mentioned in the study are the same as those in Southend?

Let us know what you think by e-mailing abetterstart@pre-school.org.uk

The Pitfalls of Evaluating Early Intervention

Title: Martin, J. McBride, T. Brims, L. Doubell, L. (2018), Evaluating Early Intervention Programmes: Six common pitfalls, and how to avoid them, Early Intervention Foundation

Research source: http://www.eif.org.uk/publication/evaluating-early-intervention-programmes-six-common-pitfalls-and-how-to-avoid-them/

Publication date: 22 February 2018

Our summary: The report summarises five common pitfalls that can be made when evaluating early intervention programmes. These are as follows:

  • No robust comparison group – comparison groups should be used in all impact evaluations;
  • High drop-out rate – in addition to co-operation measures, drop-out should be analysed in terms of any associated bias;
  • Excluding participants from the analysis – attempts should be made to ensure that data is collected from completers and those who do not;
  • Using inappropriate measures – validated and standardised measures which are appropriate to the programme should be used;
  • Small sample size – power calculations should be used to identify appropriate sample sizes. Evaluations of less than 20 people should not be considered;

Lack of long-term follow up – data collection should be planned to capture short and long-term outcomes.

How we’re applying this in Southend:

  • We will be working to ensure that these pitfalls are avoided where possible in our evaluation framework and research of early interventions and preventions
  • We will be collecting data across our short, medium and long-term outcomes

Help us help Southend

  • In what other ways can we avoid the common problems with evaluation?

Let us know what you think by e-mailing abetterstart@pre-school.org.uk

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