Last week a new UK Parliament was chosen and the Government has started the work of running the country for the next five years. There will be debates on trade, international policy and national identity but ongoing battles over Brexit cannot distract us from the other vital issues that shape the future health, wealth and well-being of the country.
One of those issues is how we support families during the first five years of their children’s lives. Throughout 2020, EasyPeasy will be fighting to ensure those crucial years are given the attention and resources they deserve, and this is why.
What’s the issue? By the time the next General Election has to be called, children born today will be approaching their fifth birthdays. During that time, they will have gone through the most rapid and important time for human development. The evidence from both neuroscience and social science is clear on the importance of the first five years for a child’s development and future life chances. 85% of a child’s brain is developed by age five and we never learn more or as quickly and easily than we do in those years.
Although the science is clear, conversations about how we best support children and families during this time are tragically rare. The majority of policies and debates around children are centred on formal education, which usually begins at age 5, missing the biggest window of opportunity for supporting child development.
It’s in the first five years that we form our most basic understanding of how the world works, who we are and how we interact with others. It’s also when skills such as self-control, resilience, communication and creativity, all of which affect our life chances, are developed.
These are critical life skills, and the evidence around how these skills are best developed is clear. Simply put, children who begin their lives in environments where families have more resources, networks, knowledge and confidence are more likely to go on to be happier, healthier and wealthier than peers who have less (Sammons 2015). Therefore, many of the social inequalities and barriers to social mobility, which society is forced to address later on, have their roots in the early years.
Why EasyPeasy? EasyPeasy was founded on the basis of this evidence. We focus on giving ideas, inspiration and confidence to parents and carers and so make the job of building a warm and positive home environment easier. Although we are a relatively young and small organisation, we have been able to work with over 35,000 families, 1,500 teachers and nursery practitioners, and 900 schools. We’ve partnered with the Department for Education, over 25 local authorities, national charities and organisations such as LEGO and the University of Oxford.
The breadth of our work and relationships helps us to see and fight for the bigger picture in early years. This is why we are committed to increasing our efforts in this area throughout 2020. We will be campaigning, lobbying lawmakers, raising awareness and helping to build a coalition of other advocates who will fight for the attention, energy and funding that the early years really deserves.
Why now? Although our work is not restricted to the UK, this is our home and where we have had the most impact so far. The UK Government has an ideal opportunity to make the necessary strategic and financial shifts towards supporting families at the most crucial time of human development during the Comprehensive Spending Review, due in the second half of 2020.
During the Review, the Government will set out its long-term spending plans and limits. This is the time for the country’s leaders, regardless of party politics, to make a practical commitment to the future of the country. Therefore, a central focus of our 2020 advocacy work will be to help convince the public and the Government that more can and needs to be done to help parents give their children the best possible start in life.
In the coming months, we are going to use our unique place within the early years ecosystem, along with our technology and expertise, to further connect early years leaders to fight for the attention this issue deserves. During this time, you will see us at more conferences, writing more posts, working with more partners and sharing more media than ever before.
Making such an important shift in attention and resource cannot be done alone. There is already great work being done by The LEGO Foundation on play and early development and movements like the Parent-Infant Foundation’s 1001 Days. However, more can and needs to be done to bring together advocates to send a powerful message to both policy-makers and the public.
What can you do? We have only just begun to help grow and shape a community of early years advocates and now is the time to get in touch if you want to be a part of these efforts. Here are some ways you can provide support night now:
- Get in touch if you want your organisation to join a coalition of early years advocates
- Share this post with your network and anyone who might also want to provide support as well
- Contact us if you have a platform and want us to share more about the importance of early years with your audience
- The Government may have five years to try to reshape the country’s place in the world but the children born today shouldn’t have to wait for that to happen. They deserve a society and leaders who make decisions that will give them the best start in life. This is what we will be fighting for and I hope you will join us.
To contact me directly, email email@example.com.
Newsletter! This is the first of what will be monthly updates on EasyPeasy’s progress in fighting for the early years. To stay updated on this work, sign up to our newsletter. The newsletter also includes a link to our new monthly podcast where we travel the country speaking with early years leaders.