Where next for early childhood services?
Ben Lewing, assistant director for policy & practice, calls for local areas to work with EIF on a new baseline for early childhood services this winter, to help focus on what needs to be done now and next for babies and children to thrive.
Local early childhood services were already under pressure before March 2020, with reductions in resources cutting deep into children’s centres and other local early intervention services, which now appear to be accelerating as a consequence of the pandemic. So how can local areas make 2021 a year of renewal for our youngest citizens?
One of EIF’s most important tools over the past seven years has been our early intervention self-assessment, the maturity matrix. Every local authority area has used one or more versions to shine a light on their local arrangements, uncovering different insights, generating discussion and building consensus about improvements.
This is the kind of tool needed now to help local areas to reflect, celebrate and focus, and so we are publishing a new early years maturity matrix this autumn. The new matrix will feel familiar, but with some important adaptations, based on feedback from local areas, particularly to make it shorter and simpler to use. The matrix will be freely available on the EIF website for any area to use.
We’re also inviting you to work with us on using the matrix to set a new local and national baseline this winter. This will help to understand how much difference the pandemic, lockdowns, service and funding pressures have made to local arrangements for early childhood services, and what kind of future progress is realistic, particularly for local areas that are adapting or remodelling their services.
We’ve created a new, light-touch validation and report process to complement your local maternity and early years planning, and will offer this to any local area that wants to use the matrix between 16 November and the end of January 2021. Find out more or register your local area now.
Many of you have been long-term partners with EIF since 2013, sharing our learning journey on how to use evidence to improve the effectiveness of maternity and early years services. You have regularly described the improvement challenges to us, including how using and generating evidence can be difficult in practice, and how the conditions for success have been eroded. Now is the moment when evidence-informed planning is more important than ever.
2020 has been a significant moment in all our lives, including for babies and toddlers. We know that very young children living in low-income families have the potential to catch up on learning disruption – providing we can offer them the right opportunities, within their zone of potential development. But the later we leave it, the greater the magnitude of impact. At a time when there is a lot of debate about the need to level up life chances in different parts of the country, we need to start by focussing on early childhood.