Growing Minds Rich Picture

Helping disadvantaged children to be school ready. Growing Minds is an innovative and ground-breaking initiative to improve school readiness in disadvantaged communities. The project combines tested interventions to multiply impact.

Why school readiness matters

Oxfordshire’s educational excellence is world renowned. But a disadvantaged child in Oxfordshire is further behind at the start of primary school than an average English disadvantaged child.

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 start school they are typically 4.3 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 19 months. In Oxfordshire, despite its reputation for academic excellence, the gap is now even wider.

Our partners

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 new-borns, also engaging with 2-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.

What is the offer to families?

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 6 months.

The Peep Learning Together Group Programme: Directly targeting improved home learning.

the project

OCF has convened the partnership of education and early year 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 new-borns, one-year olds and two-year olds in the first year of delivery. Lasting seven years in total, the project will offer to help more than 800 children in Berinsfield and Littlemore.

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.

 “The short answer is there is general expert consensus that it is somewhere between economically worthwhile and imperative to invest more heavily, as a proportion of both local and national spend, in the very earliest months and years of life.”

Wave Trust, Economics of Early Years Investment

Theory of Change:

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. Providing training to local front-line staff.

Place-based, focussing on key communities with needs, using the assets already within those communities.

Growing Minds logo - orange and blue

“There’s amazing evidence for the benefits of taking a preventative approach, and we love that OCF have been leading the way with a project that is collaborative and long-term.”

Katharine Barber, Chief Executive Home Start Oxford

Contact our  Growing Minds Project Manager Suzy Donald to find out more.

Read more on the COVID-19 response by Growing Minds and its partners:

Five Oxfordshire charities, including OCF, on the impact of school closure to the local education gap.

Read our news story on how the Growing Minds partners have adapted to COVID-19.

Follow Growing Minds on Twitter