We have previously brought you information about the 16 early years theme grants awarded by the Department for Education.  These programmes are approaching the end of their first year and we have an update from eight of the programmes to report on progress made so far.

The grant programmes are running across the country to deliver increased childcare provision, more support for parents and improved training and standards.  You can get more information on the early years grants here


4Children – ‘Reach Out’

Reach Out is supported by a co-development network of 44 local authorities and national agencies.  Over the past six months, they have given direct feedback on the drafting of the Outcomes Framework and supported 4 whole day editorial workshops.  A final draft is now in the process of being prepared for DfE sign off.

In Spring and Summer trialling will take place in over a 100 children’s centres.  Twenty-one partners have already committed to the trials with several more still in discussion.  If you are interested in being involved it still may be possible to participate.  Contact john.alwyine-mosely@4children.org.uk  for more details.

Over the same period, children’s centres impact in key outcome areas with specific types of disadvantaged and vulnerable families and their children will be collected.  This will shape a series of e-bulletins on best practice.

More information can be found at: http://4children.org.uk/Programmes/Detail/Reach-Out

4Children – Community Childcare and Early Learning Hubs

Nine Community Childcare and Early Learning Hubs have been created and are up and running around the country.  The Hubs are a solution to the limited availability of high quality, flexible childcare that many parents need when trying to balance their work and home commitments.  They consist of a variety of early years settings all working together in a local area to achieve three goals – improving quality, offering blended childcare to parents and supporting the provision of new childcare places as required.

Each of the Hubs has engaged a variety of early years settings in the area and have begun working towards these goals in a variety of ways.  Ebor Childcare Hub in Strensall, York have created a website which brings together all the information about the early years settings in one easy to use website helping families to easily see the availability and links between the settings.  Homerton Childcare Hub in Cambridge have successfully held quality improvement training focused on communication and language.  During the next few months the Hubs will continue engaging parents and helping them find childcare to meet their ever changing needs as well as improving quality at a local level.

More information about the nine Hubs can be found at: http://www.4children.org.uk/Programmes/Detail/Community-Childcare-and-Early-Learning-Hubs

If you are interested in finding out more about the Early Learning and Childcare Hubs programme and how to become one please contact tamar.shaw@4children.org.uk.

Barnardo’s – ABC Pathway Programme

The ABC Pathway Programme is a VCS grant-funded partnership project between the Department for Education and Barnardo’s.  Within the two-year contract we are committed to design, develop and deliver a cost-effective, sustainable programme to improve the availability and flexibility of high quality childcare provision to enable parents to participate in employment.

The Communication Trust – Platform 3

Under the National Prospectus Grant Programme for promoting excellence in early years and childcare, The Communication Trust are developing and piloting Platform 3, an innovative online learning route for delivering the Level 3 accredited qualification – Supporting Children and Young People’s Speech Language and Communication.

Platform 3 will help early years practitioners, from a wide range of backgrounds in all different locations, access this Level 3 CPD award.

Consisting of two mandatory and one optional unit, the Award enables the children’s workforce to develop the knowledge and skills needed to effectively encourage all children’s speech, language and communication development and identify and support those who are struggling.  As well as studying online learners will be supported by an assessor to be assessed and accredited online to gain their qualification.

This will then help enable settings, through a better qualified workforce, to provide high quality early education in relation to children’s language and communication.

The Communication Trust have partnered with the three Awarding Organisations currently offering the Award: apt awards, CACHE and City & Guilds.  We have been working with our online provider to create innovative e-learning and assessment route and this is near completion ready for launch.

In addition, we have learner partners who are helping us to recruit cohorts of committed learners.  Learner application forms are being collated and the first cohort will be registered at the end of March 2014.  We aim to enrol 230 learners onto Platform 3 by March 2015 with the view to rolling out mainstream delivery from April 2015 as we have received a significant level of interest in the option to be able to undertake a qualification online and anticipate that this will increase as the results of the pilot programme come through.

To read more about the project please go to: www.platform3online.org.uk

Family Action – Childcare in schools

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Family Action is running a series of free ‘Dismantling the Barriers’ training workshops across the country between April and December 2014.

The sessions will offer schools and other childcare providers the opportunity to learn how they can set up and deliver flexible and affordable school-based childcare for 8 – 14 year olds.

Each workshop will focus on the challenges that childcare providers typically face when setting up school-based childcare for older pupils – and what practical measures can be taken to dismantle these barriers.  We will be drawing on our recent experiences of working with schools in London and the North West to develop childcare provision.

Dismantling the Barriers

We’ll soon be publishing dates of our open training in London and the North West.  Keep an eye on the Learning Exchange website.

If you are interested in the training, but live outside London and the North West, we’d be happy to bring our workshops to you.  Please email learning.exchange@family-action.org.uk for details.

Learn more about the Childcare in Schools programme by:

–          Visiting the Learning Exchange website

–          Subscribing to our Learning Exchange enewsletter

–          Contacting the programme manager, Patricia Morgan, on patricia.morgan@family-action.org.uk

Home-Start – Big Hopes, Big Futures

Parents will be encouraged to put morning and bedtime routines into place and to play with their children as part of a new service from family support charity Home-Start designed to help parents provide a positive home environment to support their children’s early learning and prepare for a successful transition to school.

Home-Start Big Hopes/Big Futures’ (BHBF) programme is about basic practical issues as well as literacy and numeracy.  Specially trained parent volunteers will be helping other parents to prepare their children for school, so for example they arrive on time, are able to play with other children and recognise their name, are able to eat and drink unaided, are toilet rained and can cope away from their parents.

The service will run initially in Sheffield, Liverpool, North and South Manchester, Bolton, Suffolk, Nottingham and Charnwood.  Parents will be referred and signposted to the service via partnerships with schools/children’s centres and other local early years services.  It will target the most disadvantaged families including those who currently do not readily engage with their children’s early learning because they:

  • lack confidence/understanding of how to engage
  • lack the resources (books/toys etc) needed to support their children’s learning
  • feel alienated from the education system and services
  • are socially isolated
  • have chaotic lifestyles
  • have practical barriers to overcome – i.e. poor health, disability, English not a first language

Family-based support for early learning is now recognised as a central feature of successful outcomes for young children and one of the most significant contributors to narrowing gaps in school readiness and ensuring children’s success in the education system, particularly during periods of educational transition when families may need greater support.

For more information about ‘Big Hopes Big Futures’ please contact Home-Start UK Project Manager Sara Brown: sbrown@home-start.org.uk

NCB – Making it REAL

NCB’s Early Childhood Unit is offering free Making it REAL group training events from April 2014.  The training enables practitioners to use the REAL evidence-based approach that reaches out to parents and families, building confidence and knowledge to support the early home learning environment: this has been shown to have a powerful impact on children’s outcomes and on family literacy practice.  The training includes information about using REAL to support work with two-year-olds. Priority will be given to areas and groups that have not yet received the training.

For more info or to book a free group event in your area visit www.ncb.org.uk/ecu/making-it-real


National Literacy Trust – Early Words Together

Early Words Together is a National Literacy Trust programme which brings together local partners and services to support families to improve their home learning environment.  The programme is running in 12 Local Authorities and involves trained community volunteers, often local carers or grandparents, working with 2,400 families with two to five-year-olds.

Previous research (EPPE) has identified a positive early home learning environment with children’s cognitive development. By focussing on improving the early home learning environment, families increase their skills and confidence to support their children’s development and increase their school readiness and future attainment.

Progress Update

The project has progressed well, supporting Co-ordinators through a dedicated budget for participating Children’s Centres, high quality training and resources and regular contact from National Literacy Trust Managers.

In year one over 150 members of staff from 120 Children’s Centres have been briefed to manage the programme and train 535 volunteers. Participating families have received a total of 884 free books. Two research agencies will evaluate the impact on children, parents/carers, volunteers and local authority partners, reporting in March 2015.

We welcome enquiries from local authorities. If you are interested in hearing more please contact Sue Denning, Early Words Together Programme Manager: sue.denning@literacytrust.org.uk, 020 7820 6278.