Growing Minds, the collaborative project convened by OCF to tackle educational inequality, has had to adapt quickly to the circumstances imposed by the coronavirus outbreak. Partners are moving some elements of the project online, whilst other aspects have become more important than ever in the current context.

Growing Minds aims to improve school readiness in disadvantaged communities, combining tested interventions to multiply impact. The project is working through a group of key delivery partners from education and early years charities, schools and statutory services. A full project description is here.

The current requirement for social distancing has led to educational services having to cease one-to-one contact with families and implement home-working, culminating in the closure or drastic reduction in statutory services, including schooling, birth registration, and health visiting. There is no escaping that these unprecedented circumstances will have a heavy impact on the Growing Minds project, the biggest of these being that for the short and possibly medium term, sign-ups will be hampered by there being no universal contact points with families. The project will therefore not come close to meeting its targets. Our group programmes will not run in a face-to-face capacity, and practitioners will not be visiting families at home.

Growing Minds has therefore adapted its offer to families, and is supporting Growing Minds partner agencies through this crisis. These partners will continue to deliver the best help for families who need it, perhaps even more keenly now. We feel this is a fundamental part of our role as a community foundation, and as convener of a collaborative project such as Growing Minds.

The project is also maintaining its focus on promoting the home-learning environment for families, which for the time being is the only environment children are being exposed to. This is now being achieved by:

  • Imagination Library book deliveries continuing as usual
  • Telephone support to families on a one-to-one basis
  • Online resources and activities to promote wellbeing and learning for young children
  • Full collaboration with neighbourhood groups to engage and promote resources locally, and to those who need them most
  • Online Peep forums, where safe to do so, will be delivered for established families, adhering to contracts of behaviour to ensure safeguarding of participants.

Over quarter two, OCF will continue to fund our partners as we had agreed, regardless of the project’s ability to deliver against targets. We believe this is for the longer-term benefit of our partners, the project and ultimately local families.

Suzy Donald, Growing Minds Project Manager, says: “Over this time, we will be looking at how well we are able to meet the needs of families and exploring our new approaches to delivering interventions. We will work with the partnership to adapt to the circumstances within the remit of the project; and if necessary in order to extend the project’s lifecycle or remit to reach its objectives, we will seek to increase our fundraising accordingly. During this period, we aim to identify, through evaluation with our research partners at Oxford University, what works in online delivery, both in terms of the types of interventions and the cohorts of families that we support.”

One thoughtful adaptation that Growing Minds partners have had to make is how to deliver safe sessions online, with all of the safeguarding challenges this entails. Peeple’s Project Manager Helen Stroudley delivered a session on this topic at OCF’s weekly webinar last week, and this can be viewed below.

Download the first impact report from Growing Minds