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After the initial shock of lockdown, families taking part in OCF’s Growing Minds early years programme are adapting to the ‘new normal’: social distancing, fewer face-to-face services, and rapid acceleration in the development of online services.

Growing Minds is an innovative and ground-breaking initiative to improve school readiness in disadvantaged communities. Front-line practitioners working in early years are being trained in the evidence-based Peep Learning Together programme and, working together, will engage local families in meaningful interactions and support to help children become school ready by the time they reach age five. The project engages newborns, one-year-olds and two-year-olds in the first year of delivery, aiming to help more than 800 children in Berinsfield and Littlemore over the seven-year lifetime of the project.

From Giving Tuesday 2020, we are offering a pound-for-pound match for any donations to Growing Minds on The Good Exchange. Find out more

In our Q3 update to Growing Minds funders, we report that more families are now being referred to Growing Minds, and delivery partners are responding with a variety of imaginative ways to support them. Following the initial impact of COVID-19 on families and front-line services, the past few months have seen delivery partners start to bounce back, with numbers of referrals increasing again and the variety of interventions growing. Here are our headlines for quarter 3:

  • 102 families are now receiving support from Growing Minds
  • 46 families in Berinsfield, 56 in Littlemore
  • 69 of our Growing Minds families have babies, 33 have toddlers
  • 17 local professionals across the two communities have been trained through Growing Minds.

Over the summer months our partner services have experimented with providing online groups, and assisting families through newsletters, activity packs, video stories and a host of other types of support. Schools reopened in September; Birth Registrars begun to register births again; and Health Visitors are starting to run weigh-in clinics that had previously ceased. Progress remains slow, with many family support agencies not able to provide face-to-face support, the Berin Centre and John Henry Newman closed for normal walk in, and group provision and guidance changing regularly.

In one case example, a single mother and her two young children (5 and 2) were referred into Growing Minds by John Henry Newman Academy. Coping with family breakdown and trying to get support in another language was proving difficult, and mum reported both children had language delays. The family are now engaging with Peeple in one-to-one sessions with a practitioner who speaks their first language, Urdu, and the youngest child is receiving Imagination Library books on a regular basis.

Mum reports that her own emotional wellbeing has improved as a result of this support, and after receiving advice on everyday activities to improve communications for the children, has started to sing to them regularly.

Find out more by downloading the full report