Following the lockdown of educational and childcare services in March, think tanks and educators alike have predicted the widening of the attainment gap for disadvantaged children. Growing Minds has quickly responded, adapting the project to offer the best support to our families during lockdown, and planning for a more challenging future.
Growing Minds is an innovative and ground-breaking initiative to improve school readiness in disadvantaged communities. The project combines tested interventions to multiply impact.
At the start of school, children are assessed as to whether they have a Good Level of Development at the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS). When children from disadvantaged backgrounds in Oxfordshire start school they are typically 5.5 months behind their classmates.
As they progress through school, this deficit affects the rate at which they learn, and so the gap grows. By the time they are 16 the gap is more than 21.5 months. Despite Oxfordshire’s reputation for academic excellence, this gap is even wider than in England as a whole (19 months).
Our Insights Library gives more detail from our own reports and updates from external sources.
OCF has convened the partnership of education and early years charities, around local delivery partners. This will enable us to identify families where we can offer support, promote the project, deliver it and measure the results.
A full range of front-line practitioners working in early years will be 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 will engage newborns, one-year-olds and two-year-olds in the first year of delivery. We will offer to help more than 800 children in Berinsfield and Littlemore over the seven-year lifetime of the project.
Why Berinsfield and Littlemore?
These communities have an existing asset base, i.e. projects and services that are established, well received, with an interest in working in partnership. They also have a high percentage of children in income-deprived households. These are communities in which OCF and the partners have existing connections. Once the project has been piloted in these areas, we hope to replicate the model in other areas of Oxfordshire and beyond.
Growing Minds is an innovative approach to changing the life outcomes of disadvantaged babies and toddlers, which is:
Preventative – conversations start at birth, building on a tangible resource, books
Collaborative – using local delivery agencies in a joined-up approach
Evidence-based – using tried and tested interventions developed by experts in their field, and providing training to local front-line staff
Place-based – focusing on key communities with needs, using the assets already within those communities.
Imagination Library – An international scheme providing age appropriate monthly books from birth. Sign-up will trigger engagement with the wider service offer
Home-Start – Skilled volunteers and practitioners providing in-home support to families of young children through trusting relationships
Peep Learning Together Programme – An evidence-based parenting programme, developed by Peeple, promoting home learning and school readiness
Berin Centre – A well connected and proactive children and family centre in Berinsfield
John Henry Newman Academy – Proactive and well regarded, and based in Littlemore
Health Visiting Service – The NHS service for families with newborns, also engaging with two-year-olds for a developmental check
Register Office – The council service for registration of births in the county
Evaluation consultants – Independent partners and experts in evaluation methodologies, including the Oxford Universities
Free monthly books – Offered on registration of a child’s birth as part of sign-up to the programme
Information about local support – A visit or contact from a practitioner, with all the details about provision for families in the area
In-home support – Home-Start general and targeted support to engaged families, for up to six months
The Peep Learning Together Group Programme – Directly targeting improved home learning
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.