Welcome to the 29th 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, Communications and Language, Community Resilience and Systems Change.

Your regular update, edited by Rachel Wood, also shows how we’re 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 suggest or contribute an article, or would like to sign up to receive these updates, or have a question, please e-mail: abssresearch@eyalliance.org.uk


Book Reading and Language Development in the Early Years (Communication and Language)

Perinatal peer support principles (Social and Emotional):

Men and Early Years Education (Systems Change


Book Reading and Language Development in the Early Years (Communication and Language)

Title: Law, J. and Charlton, J. (2020), Parent-child book reading and language development in the early years, RCSLT Bulletin (January 2020), pp16-18

Research source: Link to the full review

Publication date: January 2020 (Full systematic review 2018)

Our Summary:

“Reading is always good news”

Many studies at a population level have shown that an important protective factor is a child’s home learning environment. The authors set out to review whether it is possible to intervene in book reading, and to make an intervention impact on language and pre-reading skills. Most of the studies previously however do not focus on under 5s. They also aimed to focus on expressive (using words and language) and receptive (understanding words and language) language and pre-reading skills.


The studies included in the review were all studies that either used randomised controlled trials (RCTs) or other studies that had a control group (group of those not receiving the intervention). The main focus was required to be that the intervention was directly delivered by a parent themselves and which assessed expressive and receptive language outcomes. The average age of the children in the study was 40 months.


The main findings from the review was that:

  • Most of the studies showed that the parent interaction had a positive effect
  • The biggest advantage seemed to be in the area of receptive language
  • The overall advantage was seen to be high impact, and 8 months in terms of developmental progress (using the Early Intervention Foundation early years criteria toolkit)
  • That authors of the study argue that this is an important finding as receptive language development is known to be highly predictive of later educational and social difficulties
  • Early book reading was effective in pre-school children, as well as over 3s and this was found to be more so in areas of deprivation
  • Book reading was found to be an important protective factor in terms of both learning and wellbeing
  • Little difference was found as to whether the book reading was on an electronic device or by reading a book
  • The findings showed that shared reading had more of an effect in this area than dialogic reading (parent question led)
  • The authors argue that the consistent findings in the review was due to the adoption of only studies that were with children in the early years
  • None of the studies that were sourced were in the UK, with the majority being in the US
  • The authors advocate that parent-child book reading is promoted with all children including those with language difficulties

The main review makes the following recommendations:

  • For carers: That knowledge about the role of parents as partners in active book reading should be widely disseminated through all relevant early year’s organisation,
  • For practitioners: That all early years / public health practitioners are aware that parent / child book reading activities need to be part of the early years “offer” to parents and young children
  • For those managing services for young children: That services are audited to establish where such interventions are being delivered
  • For commissioners of services: That parent / child book reading should be an explicit element in the offer to young children and their families
  • For the commissioners of research: That there is a need for trials to be carried out within the current UK context and the new initiatives from Nuffield Foundation and the Education Endowment Foundation provide an excellent opportunity to undertake an evaluation. These would also allow for these interventions to be evaluated in the diverse UK population; to date there is a gap in the evidence base
  • For researchers: That there will be a better understanding of the differential effects of book reading on different populations and of the mechanisms by which book reading is associated with other aspects of the home learning environment
  • For policy makers: That parent / child book reading, and its equivalents to be a part of the offer to all children and their families and that this be woven into local responses to the Governments Social Mobility Strategy

Editor’s note –

The main ‘building blocks’ for expressive and receptive language are known to be –

Expressive Language (‘using’)

  • Understanding and comprehension
  • Attention and concentration
  • Communicating without words / fine-motor skills e.g. signing
  • Play
  • Using language socially
  • Motivation to communicate

Receptive Language (‘understanding’)

  • Attention and concentration
  • Communicating without words / fine motor skills e.g. signing
  • Social skills
  • Play

Communication and Language strategies have been rated by the Education Endowment Foundation as ‘high impact at very low cost based on extensive evidence’

How we’re applying this in Southend

* Our communication and language ‘Let’s Talk’ offer is wide ranging and as part of this delivery we focus on receptive and expressive language, as well as shared book reading

* Our talking transitions project (e.g. Weekend Talk Tips etc.) is supporting practitioners to share and build on their knowledge in this area

Help us help Southend

* In what other ways can we ensure that we are taking forward the recommendations in the review?

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

Perinatal peer support principles (Social and Emotional):

Title: MIND and McPin Foundation (2019), The Five Principles of Perinatal Peer Support – what does good look like?

Research source: https://maternalmentalhealthalliance.org/news/perinatal-peer-support-principles-now-available/

Publication date: 3rd December 2019

Our Summary:

The authors argue that the five principles of good perinatal peer support are –

  • Safe and nurturing
  • Accessible an inclusive
  • Complements rather than replicating the work of clinical mental health services
  • Provider opportunities for meaningful involvement of people with lived experience and peer leadership
  • Benefits everyone involved, including peer supporters

The principles were co-designed (using Social Care Institute of Excellence Co-Production Toolkit) with people with lived experience and professionals. The process and evidence for the development can be viewed at bit.ly/2Q7R4KK (Peer support principles for maternal mental health project report, December 2018).

The telephone interviews showed that the following quality assurance principles would be useful –

  • Improving own organisational practice
  • Induction document for new staff and volunteer
  • Addressing concerns about unsafe peer support ‘out there’
  • Available to women using peer support to hold peer support organisations to account
  • Appearing credible to referrers and funders

Some of the comments that they received were as follows:

“We need balance between safety structures and a non-intimidating environment”

“It is more beneficial to be seen as independent but to be on a critical pathway with these connections and referrals without being seen that way by service users”

“Danger of over professionalising peer support – copying mental health professional services rather than doing something different”

The core values of peer support from the research and the literature review were seen to be as follows:

  • Experience in common
  • Safety
  • Choice and control
  • Two-way interactions
  • Human connection
  • Freedom to be oneself

The principles document encourages reflection in terms of how a service is planning to achieve it and to record the actions that need to be taken.

How we’re applying this in Southend

* We are launching a home visiting service which will be run by volunteers (including emotional support). This will adopt the principles of peer support as set down in the guide

* Our parent champions were developed with these principles in mind

Help us help Southend

* In what other ways can we reflect upon, and adopt peer support principles?

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

Men and Early Years Education (Systems Change):

Title: Davies, J. (2019), The MITEY guide to recruiting men into early years education, London: Fatherhood Institute

Research source: https://miteyuk.org/the-mitey-guide-to-recruiting-men/

Publication date: 19th November 2019

Our Summary:

“Getting more men into childcare has always been a tricky task. With its thought-provoking and practical approach, this well-presented and easy-to-follow book makes the ideal companion for owners and managers struggling to recruit and maintain male early years professionals.” Michael Freeston, Director of Quality Improvement, Early Years Alliance

Settings can sign up to the MITEY charter:

https://miteyuk.org/ sign-up-to-the-mitey-charter/

The report focuses on 10 myths in terms of promoting vacancies to men:


Myths such as –

  • “Men don’t want to work in early years education”
  • “Women are naturally more ‘gifted’ at caring for children”
  • “Men are put off early years education because of low pay and poor career progression”
  • “Men are better at ‘rough and tumble’”

Men’s participation in early years education is low. In England and Wales only 3% are male (in Primary Education its 15%, Social Work 14%, and 11% in nursing).

There is other factor that the authors proposed in terms of increasing inclusion:

  • An ageing workforce
  • Need to recruit skilled and new entrants
  • There is a tendency for the workforce to move on
  • The workforce is 97% female, and so in effect the talent pool has been reduced by 50%

The authors propose the following actions to take when promoting vacancies to men:

  • Define your goals e.g. aim to recruit not 1 but two men
  • Sign up to the charter e.g. the declaration of what you believe in and aspire too
  • Mind your language e.g. use early years practitioner or educator which is more neutral and professional
  • Aim for diversity and inclusion e.g. focus on how you might build a more inclusive workforce
  • Take positive action e.g. you can use statements like ‘We particularly welcome applications from men, as they are under-represented in the workforce”
  • Use diverse images e.g. think creatively and feature men and look at how inherently inclusive your images are
  • Reach out to boys and men e.g. bear in mind stereotyped ideas, and discuss a wide range of jobs and careers with children
  • Support your male staff well e.g. provide opportunities for networking

“I always wanted to work in a caring profession, from when I was quite small. I didn’t have any experience of looking after children, and was going to go into nursing, but a good (female) friend of mine wanted to work in a nursery and we ended up doing it together. Once I’d seen what the work involved and then later took on more responsibility, I was hooked.”
– Michael Walker-Takacs, nursery manager, Liverpool

How we’re applying this in Southend

* We have provided the opportunity for the workforce to attend workshops in father inclusive practice

* We are reflecting on the charter to see how we can further adopt the principles of the charter

Help us help Southend

* In what ways can we use the charter and the guide to support more men into early years practice?

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


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