Welcome to the fifth A Better Start Southend research bulletin produced by Rachel Wood.

This is your regular update giving you the latest on early years policy, practice and evidence, and how we are using these findings to influence our work in Southend.

If you would like to sign up to receive these updates, or have a question, please email abetterstart@southend.gov.uk.

Snapshot of Southend’s children’s health

Title: Southend-on-Sea Child Health Profile 2017

Research source: https://fingertips.phe.org.uk/profile-group/child-health/profile/child-health-overview/area-search-results/E06000033?place_name=SS0%208NJ&search_type=place-name

Publication date: March 2017

Authors: Public Health England

Our summary

The Child Health Profile provides a snapshot of child health in Southend-on-Sea and is designed to help the local authority and health services improve health and wellbeing and tackle inequalities. It sets out 32 child health indicators and compares performance against the rest of England.


In 2015 (the latest available data) there were 2,233 live births in Southend-on-Sea.

22.1% of children are living in poverty, higher than the England and Wales average (20.1%) and higher than the previous year.

The following indicators are significantly worse than the England and Wales average:

  • Children in care immunisations
  • Children (under 16) in low income families
  • Conceptions for under 18s
  • Teenage Mothers

The trends shows there has been improvements in MMR vaccinations at 2 years, and it is now at the level of the England and Wales average.

Help us help Southend

  • What projects and activities do you feel will support improvements in children in care immunisations, children in poverty, and under-18 conceptions?

Let us know what you think by e-mailing abetterstart@southend.gov.uk

Early intervention and parent-child intervention

Title: Foundations for Life: What Works to Support Parent Child Interaction in the Early Years

Research source: http://www.eif.org.uk/publication/foundations-for-life-what-works-to-support-parent-child-interaction-in-the-early-years/

Publication date: July 2016

Authors: Asmussen, K. Feinstein, L. Martin, J and Chowdry, H. (Early Intervention Foundation (EIF))

Our summary

This review examines early interventions that support parent-child interaction in the early years, looking at 75 interventions in terms of strength of evidence, along with their associated resource costs.

It argues that 17 of these interventions, if commissioned carefully, would likely be effective.

The headlines are:

  • There are a range of effective programmes, differing by approach and rationale
  • Although the case for early intervention is very well made, the overall evidence base for the programmes available now in the UK needs further development
  • Overall, the evidence is strongest for programmes that target based on early signals of risk in child development (targeted-indicated)
  • Programmes which focus on children’s behavioural development tend to have better evidence of effectiveness than those focused on attachment or cognitive development
  • 5 interventions were found to be effective in terms of attachment (example Family Nurse Partnership)
  • 10 interventions were found to be effective in terms of improving children’s behaviour (example Empowering Parents, Empowering Communities – EPEC)
  • 2 interventions were found to be effective in terms of cognitive development

Help us help Southend

  • How do you evaluate the effectiveness of your projects and interventions?

Let us know what you think by e-mailing abetterstart@southend.gov.uk

Eating well in pregnancy

Title: Eating Well in Pregnancy: A Practical Guide

Research source: http://www.firststepsnutrition.org/

Publication date: 2nd Edition (2017)

Authors: First Steps Nutrition Trust

Our summary

This resource, produced by First Steps Nutrition Trust, an independent charitable trust, is for practitioners supporting pregnancy, and for parents-to-be. Parts of the guide are reproducible if for the purposes of public health, and not for profit.

The guide consists of two parts:
Part 1 – Advice on eating well in pregnancy
Part 2 – Putting the eating well advice into practice

It emphasises the importance of a good diet and to support the broadening of the types of food that are required for a healthy pregnancy.

How we’re applying the research in Southend

  • Diet and Nutrition is one of the key developmental outcomes for A Better Start Southend.
  • With our partners we are progressing on reviewing the UNICEF UK Baby Friendly Initiative (BFI) https://www.unicef.org.uk/babyfriendly/ in terms of workforce development.
  • We are reviewing peer support through our commissioning of Southend Association of Voluntary Services e.g. parent champions https://www.abetterstartsouthend.co.uk/parents-involved/
  • We are ‘testing and learning’ peer support in alternative locations. This will be evaluated later in the year.

Help us help Southend

  • How can we support parents and parents-to-be in terms of infant feeding and breastfeeding?

Let us know what you think by e-mailing abetterstart@southend.gov.uk

School readiness – theory and application

Title: School readiness and pedagogies of Competence and Performance: theorising the troubled relationship between early years and early years policy.

Research source:  http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/09669760.2016.1205970?journalCode=ciey20

Publication date: July 2016

Authors: Neaum, S

Our summary

‘School readiness’ is undoubtedly an important concept in both policy and practice. How it’s defined is of much dispute and contention. This study looks at the way that ‘school readiness’ is talked about, and how this may then be applied in terms of practice. Lastly, the study attempts to look at whether ‘school readiness’ is likely to achieve its own policy outcomes.

The author argues that currently much of the conversation about ‘school readiness’ is based on the so-called ‘achievement gap’. Further to this, it is stated that much of the work currently being undertaken is not likely to meet the needs of young children as such an impact can be felt outside of early education and school.

They conclude that issues with the concept reflect on-going issues between early education, education and the political agenda. This in turn limits the ability of such policy aims.

Help us help Southend

  • How do you use ‘school readiness’ in your practice?

Let us know what you think by e-mailing abetterstart@southend.gov.uk

Ethics in research

Title: Embedding Ethics into the Research Process

Research source: https://www.nspcc.org.uk/services-and-resources/impact-evidence-evaluation-child-protection/impact-and-evidence-insights/embedding-ethics-into-the-research-process

Publication date: 27 March 2017

Authors: Coster, D (NSPCC)

Our summary

This article argues it is essential for an organisation to have access to its own dedicated ethics committee in order to support evidence based practice.

The role of a research ethics committee is to ensure that:

  • The social value of the research outweighs any risk that there may-be to those who volunteer to take part;
  • Only studies that are deemed ethical are conducted by the organisation

It recognises that there are alternatives to this approach, including university run committees, and the NHS Research Ethics Service (RES).

The benefits that are advocated for in-house research committees are:

  • A constructive process;
  • Avoiding delays;
  • High quality research;
  • Child-centred research;
  • Understanding and alignment.

Find out more about how the NSPCC conduct research with young children

Help us help Southend

  • Do you undertake practice-based research? What is the ethical framework you use, and what are its benefits?

Let us know what you think by e-mailing abetterstart@southend.gov.uk

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