Welcome to the nineteenth edition of our A Better Start Southend Research Bulletin, bringing you the latest on ‘what works’ in early years’ around our outcomes: Social and Emotional Development, Diet and Nutrition, Communication and Language, Community Resilience and Systems Change.

Your regular update, edited by Rachel Wood also shows how we are using these findings to influence our work in Southend. In addition, we invite you to help shape our ‘test and learn’ projects and innovations in prevention and early intervention.

If you would like to contribute an article, want to sign up to receive these updates, or have a question, please email: abssresearch@pre-school.org.uk

Contents:
Early Language Development and Conversation (Communication and Language)
First Foundations: Social and Emotional Development (Social and Emotional Development)
Two-year-old free childcare: Take up and outcomes (Systems Change)

Early Language Development and Conversation

Title: Trafton, A (2018), Back-and-forth exchanges boost children’s brain response to language, MIT News

Research source: http://news.mit.edu/2018/conversation-boost-childrens-brain-response-language-0214

Publication date: February 2018

Our Summary: This report argues that engaging young children is critical in language development. The finding was that this made neuronal changes, which were the same regardless of a parent’s income or education. On this basis, it is argued that parents can make a significant impact on their children’s early language development.

The authors argue that it is not talking at your child, which is important, but it is conversation.

Using imaging techniques the scientists found that the parts of the brain (Broca’s area) known to be associated with speech production and language processing was more active when children were listening to stories. It was this activation which was found to be linked to language acquisition.

Whilst the research was undertaken with children aged 4-6 years, the authors argue that would also apply to children in the early years. It seems to shows that it is the active participation that is important, and not just talking at a child.

The study is now being extended to see what support methods can be used to remind parents to have this type of conversation (e.g. text prompts etc).

How were applying this in Southend

  • By the delivery of a wide range of ‘Let’s Talk’ activities, and screening offer.

Help us help Southend

  • Are there other ways that we could support early language development and conversation?

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

First Foundations: Social and Emotional Development

Title: Thompson, RA (2018), Social-Emotional Development in the First Three Years: Establishing the Foundations, Pennsylvania State University and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

Research source: https://www.rwjf.org/content/dam/farm/reports/issue_briefs/2018/rwjf444708

Publication date: April 2018

Our Summary: This American study argues that although the first three years are crucial for social and emotional development that this can be threatened by exposure to stress.

The study looked at a range of ways in which positive social and emotional development can be supported. Examples looked at in the study were:

  • Home visiting programmes (information and support). The study looked at Nurse Family Partnership (FNP in the UK) and Child FIRST (Child and Family Interagency, Resource, Support and Training). The second has been shown recently in a Randomised Controlled Trial to reduce parental stress and externalised behavioural issues at age 1;
  • Parent skills programmes that look at parental responsivity. The study reports that a video feedback method has been found to be effective in 12 Randomised Control Tests (RCTs). A programme called Early Head Start was also found to be effective in cognitive and language development gains;
  • Early infant mental health consultations. It is argued that these may show promise; however, there is currently only one RCT that reports outcomes in the early years.

The report argues that further research is needed as follows:

  • As to what the most successful elements of a social and emotional development programme for infants and toddlers is:
  • Efficacy studies have shown that meaningful change can be made in a number of weeks. However, longer term follow ups are needed to ensure that such changes can be maintained;

On measures that can show social and emotional development on a universal basis.

How were applying this in Southend

  • Our Family Nurse Partnership (FNP) Adapt and Work Skills projects are currently in delivery in our test and learn wards;
  • We are currently in the design process to widen our programme of delivery to maximise impact in this area.

Help us help Southend

  • In what other ways can we support social and emotional development in infants and children aged 0-4 years?

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

Two-year-old free childcare: Take up and outcomes

Title: Teager, W and McBride, T. (2018), An Initial Assessment of the two year old Free Child-Care Entitlement: Drivers of Take Up and Impact on Early Years Outcomes,

Research source: http://www.eif.org.uk/publication/an-initial-assessment-of-the-2-year-old-free-childcare-entitlement/

Publication date: August 2018

Our Summary: The 2 year old entitlement for free child-care was introduced in 2013. This entitlement is for 15 hours per week.

Take up was initially found to be slow; however, by January 2018 it was found to be accessed by 72% of those eligible.

However, this was found to be inconsistent in that in some areas there was near to universal take up whilst in others it was as low at 47%.

They found that cultural and language differences did play some part in this, but it did not explain all of the differences. Take up was found to be at the lowest in London and Birmingham.

The report also argues that the Early Years Foundation Stage Profile (EYFSP) had limitations in the extent that it could evaluate the policy.

The recommendations for further examination were as follows:

  • There needed to be more understanding as to why there is less take up in the earlier 2s (and that there should be most studies into why this should be);
  • More research needs to be done into cultural and language differences in terms of take-up.

In terms of educational outcomes, the report concluded that the take-up does have some potential of impact on children who are eligible for Free School Meals (FSM) and those who are not.

How were applying this in Southend

  • We develop our services to ensure that they are as accessible as possible (e.g. English as a Second Language);

Help us help Southend

  • What other ways could we support outcomes for children who are 2?

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

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