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The Communication Trust

The Communication Trust has launched a new suite of resources called the Speech, Language and Communication Progression Tools.  They aim to support teaching staff to identify children who may be struggling to develop their speech, language and communication skills.  The Tools provide a relatively quick way of determining where children are against where they should be for their age and provide more information about how these vital skills are progressing.

There are currently Tools available for those who work with ages 4, 5-6, 7-8 and 9-10.

To order the Progression Tools or to find out more please go to:

Family Action

Childcare in schools

boy with ball 575

The childcare in schools team at Family Action is now starting to fill up its diary with dates between now and December on which they’ll be offering free ‘Dismantling the Barriers’ workshops.

Everyone is looking forward to enabling the schools we’ve been working with in London and the North West to share what they have learned during the process of setting up school-based childcare.

The date has now been set for a workshop for mainstream schools in the Midlands.  Also, two workshops for special schools have been arranged – one in the North West and one in the Midlands.  You can download the schedule here.

Please remember to keep visiting the training and events page on the Learning Exchange, because the schedule will be updated as further training locations, venues and dates are arranged.

We can also bring our training to you if you are able to gather at least ten representatives from schools in your area, and can also arrange a suitable venue for the event.  Please get in touch with us soon at [email protected]

Learn more about the Childcare in Schools programme:

Family and Childcare Trust

First ever Parent Champions Conference

On 27 March 2014 Family and Childcare Trust held the first ever Parent Champions Conference, with 80 delegates from various Parent Champion schemes across the country, and invited partners.

Project coordinators and Parent Champion volunteers shared their varied and inspiring experiences from schemes, connecting with families missing out on important information.  Delegates came from Bedfordshire, Brent, Carlisle, Cumbria, Gloucestershire, Hackney, Hampshire, Hertfordshire, Kirklees, Lambeth, Liverpool, Maidenhead, Northumberland, Oldham, Oxfordshire, Poole, Sheffield, Slough, Trafford, Wandsworth, West Berkshire and York.  Some volunteers were very experienced and now training up new volunteers, whilst others had only started a week ago!

The Department for Education presented the policy context, including how Parent Champions can help reach families eligible for the free childcare places for two-year-olds.  Six schemes presented their work at workshops, and five volunteers talked of their personal journey and experiences of outreach at a panel session.

One Parent Champion said “I wish there was a Parent Champion there for my children” and another delegate summed up the day by saying “There are people who Parent Champions have spoken to, who wouldn’t have been spoken to by anyone else otherwise.  They really change lives and it’s amazing.  Well done!”

You can read more about Parent Champions on the Family and Childcare Trust website:

Parent Champions newsletter

The second issue of Champion Chatter, the Family and Childcare Trust Parent Champions newsletter, has been published.

In it you can hear from some of the Parent Champion schemes in different parts of the country, and hear the answers to some Frequently Asked Questions.  Parent Champions are trained parent volunteers who help give information to families about childcare and local services.  If you are interested in learning more or would like to explore setting up a scheme, do visit our website – – or contact Chloe Alexander, [email protected]

National Literacy Trust

Technology offers a route into reading for disadvantaged three to five-year-olds

In March 2014, the National Literacy Trust and Pearson launched the findings of their first annual Early Years Literacy survey.  The survey explored how parents and practitioners support children’s early literacy skills and the role that technology can play in this.  To see our findings from 2013, follow these links to download our parent report and practitioner report.

Our second Early Years Literacy survey for practitioners launches today and focuses on how practitioners support children’s early reading in their setting.  If you are an early years practitioner who works with 3 to 5-year-olds and would like to take part, click here.

A complementary survey of how parents support their child’s early reading at home will also be launched this spring.  

Early Years Literacy Survey Research Findings

Technological devices such as Smartphones and tablet computers can offer a new and important route into reading for three to five-year-olds from disadvantaged backgrounds.

According to research published by the National Literacy Trust in collaboration with Pearson in March 2014, poorer children benefit more from using books and touch screens for sharing stories than books alone.  If they look at stories using books and touch screens they are less likely to perform below the expected standard for their age than if they use books only (54.5% vs. 100.0%).  More advantaged children tended to perform at or above the expected standard for their age regardless of what they used to look at stories.

Our findings show that technology is playing a large role in the lives of under fives, with three-quarters (72.9%) of three to five-year-olds having access to a touch screen at home.  Of these twice as many children of lower socioeconomic status look at stories daily (16% vs. 7.2%) compared with those of a higher socioeconomic status.  This is despite children from poorer backgrounds having less access to touch screens at home than those from more privileged backgrounds (67% vs. 75.2%).

Using technology to read stories can lead to greater enjoyment of reading.  The research found that children are more likely to enjoy reading if they use both books and a touch screen to look at stories compared to books only (77.4% vs. 70.8%).  This should set them up for success at school as National Literacy Trust research has found increased enjoyment of reading leads to better literacy outcomes.

In the first ever Early Years Literacy survey, carried out by the National Literacy Trust and Pearson, parents and early years practitioners responded to questions on their access, use and attitudes to using books and touch-screen devices with children aged three to five.  These findings highlight the dominant role which technology plays in the lives of under fives, both at home and in settings.

    • Three-quarters of children aged three to five have access to touch-screen technology at home
    • One in five early years practitioners say children use technology in their setting
    • Three-quarters of parents and practitioners consider it important for a child to use technology from an early age in order to get on at school
    • Two-thirds of practitioners feel their setting needs further access to touch-screen devices

This research was designed to explore the use of technology by children in the early years.  It marks the National Literacy Trust’s first year-on-year research to explore how often children aged three to five years use print and touch-screen technology.

Jonathan Douglas, Director of the National Literacy Trust says:

“We are delighted to be launching the first annual Early Years Literacy survey to explore the role of technology in children’s communication and language skills year-on-year, together with Pearson.  Technology is playing an increasingly crucial role in all our lives and the ways in which children are learning are changing fast.  It is important that we keep abreast of these changes and their impact on children’s education.

“When parents read with their children, whatever the medium, they increase their child’s enjoyment of reading which brings lifelong benefits.  Both practitioners and parents have a vital role to play in supporting children to read from an early age whether they use books or a touch screen.”  Practitioners can find information on using technology to support children’s reading at and parents can find hints and tips on how to help their children at

Interested in hearing more?  Please contact:

Dr. Susie Formby                                                    Sue Denning
Early Years Research Manager                                Programme Manager, Early Words Together

020 7820 6260                                                          020 7820 6278
[email protected]                             [email protected]



National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA) has carried out a small scale study on how nurseries benefit from employing graduate staff.  NDNA carried out the Department for Education (DfE) grant funded project to identify best practice models in the deployment of graduates in early years education settings.

The study was carried out at PVI nurseries, maintained nurseries and academies to see how flexibility was used.  It highlighted the different ways graduates were deployed within settings whilst ensuring children’s individual needs were provided for and quality was retained.  The study also showed the difficulties providers faced with the different levels of funding from local authorities acting as a barrier to employing more graduates within their settings.

The 13 case studies from the project are available to download at

NDNA would like to receive feedback about the case studies and whether nurseries have found them helpful and are adopting aspects in their practice.


I CAN, the children’s communication charity have recently announced their 12,000th local practitioner has been trained as part of the Early Language Development Programme (ELDP).  ELDP is a Department for Education (DfE) sponsored initiative that skills up practitioners in early years settings to develop young children’s language.  Read more on I CAN’s blog.

The DfE will be funding ELDP for a further year due to the positive impact ELDP is having on practitioners, children and parents.  If you are interested in free training and resources to support the speech, language and communication development of the most vulnerable 0-3s and are based in England, contact the ELDP team at [email protected] for more information and details on how to apply.

Tot It Up

IPhone_5 Analysis

Experts launch app to monitor the food intake and activity levels of children aged 1 – 4 years

Do you think your toddler is a fussy eater?  Do you worry they may not be getting the right balance of foods?  Now there’s an easy way to keep track of their nutritional intake with the Tot It Up food calculator app.

Created by the Infant & Toddler Forum (ITF), Tot It Up provides a personal analysis of a toddler’s daily – or more importantly, weekly – food intake compared against current recommendations, together with tips on how to make small changes to maintain the right balance.

Parents and carers can input details of what meals, snacks and drinks a toddler has consumed throughout the day and/or week, as well as the amount of physical activity he or she has done, to receive a personalised analysis with advice on improving diet and physical activity.

An added worry for families, who want to get nutrition right in the toddler years, is an increasing reliance on convenience foods which, for toddlers, can be low in key nutrients and too high in fat and sugar, leading to obesity.  Later in life diets with excess fat, salt and sugar can lead to high blood pressure and diabetes.  Tot It Up gives practical tips and information on healthy eating whether you use home-cooked or pre-prepared foods.

Judy More, paediatric dietitian and ITF member said: “Young children need nutritious food for their rapid growth and development, but have good and bad days when it comes to eating.  So it’s best to consider the balance of foods eaten over the week.  The Tot It Up food calculator allows parents to see how their toddler’s diet over a week, or a day, compares to current recommendations.  Often parents find their toddler is eating better than they thought and this helps to remove the stress from mealtimes.  When parents feel more relaxed and confident in feeding their toddler a problem of fussy eating may resolve.”

With portion sizes being double what they were 20 years ago, families can feel confused about how much they should be eating.  Toddlers are naturally better than older children and adults at regulating their food intake, to provide enough calories for their energy needs and for normal growth.  However, one predictor of how much young children eat is how much is put on their plates.

The Tot It Up app gives practical advice based on the ITF’s award winning portion size recommendations for 1-4 year olds.

The App is the latest resource from the ITF which aims to arm parents with practical tools and advice to help them feed their toddlers in line with their nutritional needs at this important stage in their development.  Tot It Up is available from the Apple App store.


Childminding Best Practice Newsletter

The Childminding Best Practice Newsletter is a recently launched newsletter which aims to help promote best practice to childminders with a focus on diversity awareness and childminding in the great outdoors.  The most recent issue includes a section on food safety and business implications of the coming changes in September 2014.

4Children regional practical seminars

Children’s Centres – What next!

London – 5 June,  Leeds – 10 June

Children’s Centres are once again high on the agenda.  They are recognised as having “come of age”, now supporting as many as a one million families across the country and becoming a cornerstone for early intervention and prevention within our communities.  Bringing together services and co-ordinating support around the needs of children and families is at the heart of Children’s Centres delivery.  It is imperative for Children’s Centres to find ways to drive greater integration in the provision of local services if they are to improve outcomes for children and families.

The aims of the day will be to:

• Give you an update on current developments pertaining to children’s centres

• Debate the evolving role of health in children’s centres

• Learn and share effective best practice on sharing data and information

• Explore children’s centres as a catalyst for those most in need

• Discuss how children’s centres can continuously improve using evidenced approaches

These seminars will bring together experts from across the children’s centre workforce to discuss and debate ways in which children’s centres can survive in these challenging times and debate subjects including integrating health, data and information sharing, early intervention, quality and positive ways of improving effectiveness across children’s centres.

Go to to book or call 020 7522 6966

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