Nottinghamshire Insight

Joint strategic needs assessment

Early Years and School Readiness (2019)

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Topic title Early Years and School Readiness (2019)
Topic owner Healthy Child and Early Childhood Integrated Commissioning Group
Topic author(s) Irene Kakoullis
Topic quality reviewed August 2019
Topic endorsed by Healthy Child and Early Childhood Integrated Commissioning Group
Topic approved by Health and Wellbeing Board November 2019
Current version 2019
Linked JSNA topics

Executive summary

What is school readiness?

School readiness is a measure of how prepared a child is to succeed in school cognitively, socially and emotionally. School readiness is measured by the level of development of a child when they reach Foundation Stage (3-5) at school. A measure called the good level of development (GLD) is used.

Infographic showing synopsis of early years JSNA chapter


How we treat young children shapes their lives – and ultimately our society (Wave Trust, 2013). If we get the early years right, we pave the way for a lifetime of achievement. If we get them wrong, we miss a unique opportunity to shape a child’s future. Despite early education being better than it has ever been, it is still not benefiting our poorest children compared to their peers (Ofsted 2016).

There is a clear economic case for investing in the early years of children’s lives, with economic analysis demonstrating that returns are much higher when interventions are targeted early in the life of disadvantaged children (Heckman 2008). Investing in quality early care and education has been shown to have a greater return on investment than many other economic development options. For every £1 invested in quality early care and education, taxpayers save up to £13 in future costs; in addition, for every £1 spent on early years education, £7 would need to be spent to have the same impact in adolescence (Early Intervention Foundation 2018a).

Furthermore, securing a successful start for our youngest children, and particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds, is crucial. It can mean the difference between gaining seven Bs at GCSE compared with seven Cs and is estimated to be worth £27,000 more in an individual’s salary over the course of their career. Attending any pre-school, compared to none, predicted higher total GCSE scores, higher grades in GCSE English and maths, and the likelihood of achieving 5 or more GCSEs at grade A*- C. The more months students had spent in pre-school, the greater the impact on total GCSE scores and grades in English and maths (DfE 2016).

Ensuring children are able to get the best from education is vital; not enough children are starting school with the range of skills they need to succeed. Educational attainment is one of the main markers for wellbeing through the life course and so it is important that no child is left behind at the beginning of their school life.

Research shows that access to high quality early learning experiences, together with a positive learning environment at home, is a vital combination to ensure that children have reached a good level of development at the start of compulsory school age. School readiness is a strong indicator of how prepared a child is to succeed in school cognitively, socially and emotionally.

This chapter focuses on school readiness which is measured by the level of development of a child when they reach Foundation Stage at school. This chapter is supported by the Nottinghamshire Childcare Sufficiency Assessment which is repeated annually and is available here Nottinghamshire Childcare Sufficiency Assessment.

Unmet Needs and Service Gaps

  • There are localities across Nottinghamshire where there are sufficiency challenges in terms of childcare. There is a need to ensure that good or outstanding provision is located where there are higher numbers of under 5’s and where numbers are projected to increase following new housing developments. Local schools and the local early years sector will be encouraged to develop provision in these areas in the absence of capital funding to develop new early years properties.
  • Parents require childcare to meet their irregular working patterns and school holidays, further work is required to meet this demand and unmet need as evidenced in the Nottinghamshire Childcare Sufficiency Assessment 2018
  • Children Centre services have previously had a key role in engaging fathers, however in recent years, the needs of fathers have received a lower profile than the needs of mothers. It is currently unclear what the current needs and views of fathers are in relation to outcomes for young children.
  • Not all children under the age of 5 are eligible for funded childcare. This means that many parents have to pay for childcare to enable them to gain or return to employment or not access employment until their child can access funded childcare. This is especially pertinent for children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) who are not entitled to additional top up funding to ensure they receive the intensive support they need; this can result in children being turned away from early years settings that do not have the ability to meet their needs.
  • Early Years settings working with children who have complex medical needs require additional support from specialist services. Practitioners have told the Local Authority that they are unable to pay to cover costs to access training and assessments provided by specialist health services. Greater engagement with specialist health services is required to help address this service need.
  • Funding for children accessing early years provision who have SEND and especially those with complex medical needs, is insufficient. Funding from the Early Years Inclusion Fund and Disability Access Fund only provide minimal costs to contribute towards staffing, equipment and training; however the Inclusion Fund has recently been used to help early years settings access additional support to help address the needs of children with complex health issues. A longer term solution is required in order to prevent children with complex needs being turned away from early years provision.
  • Interventions to improve school readiness should start much earlier during the antenatal period so greater engagement of maternity services is required.
  • School Readiness targets have often been the responsibility of the Early Years Attainment Group which has focused heavily on attainment and children already accessing early years provision. Evidence suggests that a wider partnership approach is required, taking into consideration a holistic whole family approach focusing on a range of interdependent outcomes as evidenced in this JSNA chapter.

Recommendations for Consideration by Commissioners  

Priority Recommendations Suggested Lead
To ensure Children get the Best Start

· Develop a Best Start Strategy/Plan and a strategic partnership group to consider wider factors which contribute to school readiness from preconception to the age of 4.

· Target resources to engage families earlier during the antenatal period and not wait for children to access early years provision.

Early Childhood Services, Nottinghamshire County Council (NCC).

Public Health, NCC

Children achieve a Good Level of Development

· Raising the quality of early year’s providers to ensure that all childcare settings are ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ to enable poorer children to gain the best start in life.

· Promotion, delivery and commission of evidence based interventions only.

· Implement and review the findings of the Best Start early years tracker tool to help early years providers to assess the developmental needs of children and enable commissioners to track progress and assess impact of services and interventions.

· Explore increasing the moderation of assessments carried out by schools during the Early Years Foundation Stage as they do not reflect the progress children are making at age 2 - 2½.

Early Childhood Services, NCC.

Children most at risk of poor educational outcomes have a good level of development and the attainment gap is narrowed

· Narrow the attainment gap for children eligible for Free School Meals and their peers, ensuring that progress is on par with statistical neighbours (measured by the Early Years Foundation Stage Profile).

· Target wards across Nottinghamshire with higher proportions of children living in Poverty and low IDACI scores.

· Additional work is required to engage low income families prior to the age of three and low income families not accessing early education or childcare.

· Increase the take up of funded early education for 2 year olds eligible for Free School Meals.

· Work with early years providers to ensure there are sufficient high quality and sustainable places available in low income areas.

· Target Children’s Centre resources to target groups most at risk of poor attainment and development.

· Undertake tracking of outcomes for children with SEND who have claimed supplementary funding (Disability Access Fund and Early Years Inclusion Fund).

· Review specific needs of migrant families and refugees with young children. Information is required to help engage these groups to access early years and childcare provision.

Early Childhood Services, NCC

Highly Skilled Early Years Workforce

· Provide and evaluate high quality training and workforce development support to early years professionals across Nottinghamshire.

· Links with Higher Education and Further Education organisations should be strengthened to improve promotion of accredited qualifications including teaching.

Early Childhood Services, NCC

Improve outcomes for Looked After Children and those known to Social Care

· Ensure early years is embedded in the work of the Virtual School to enable young children in Local Authority Care to succeed; and commissioners are able to assess the impact of additional Pupil Premium funding allocated to this group.

· Ensure early years strategic leads work closely with the Virtual School to ensure that social workers, kinship and foster carers are aware of the importance of the quality of early years education.

· Provide training and support to early years settings to enable them to be prepared for working with high-risk and potentially high-need groups, such as looked after children.

· Undertake early years foundation stage data tracking and analysis for Children in Need and those on Child Protection Plans following the revision of the Deprivation Fund.

Early Childhood Services, NCC

Parents are engaged in their child’s learning

· Continue the Home Talk intervention or similar evidence based intervention to address and improve speech, language communication needs by working with parent and child in their own home.

· Promotion of the national Home Learning campaign ‘Hungry Little Minds’ (launched July 2019)

· Consider the commissioning/delivery of a Home Learning resource co-produced with parents.

· Ensure that home learning is promoted through all local online and social media opportunities.

· Evaluate existing home learning interventions and launch the new home learning pathway.

Early Childhood Services, NCC

Parents are effectively supported to improve their wellbeing, parenting skills, and understand their child’s development needs.

· Review the latest evidence base to identify which parenting programmes and family support interventions are most effective and evidence value for money, for delivery by the Children’s Centre Service from 2020.

· Continued evaluation of outcomes for parents and carers who have participated in a variety of evidence based programmes delivered by Children’s Centre Services. Topics will include boundaries and behaviour, sleep routines, parental conflict etc.

· Continued delivery and evaluation of 1-2-1 family support delivered by the Children’s Centre Service, focusing on family routines, parental wellbeing, keeping children safe, emotional needs of children and home learning.

Early Childhood Services, NCC

Children’s Centre Services are responsive to need and improve outcomes

· Review the impact of Children’s Centre interventions and ensure that interventions are evidence based and evaluated.

· Greater engagement of children most at risk of developmental delay and their families.

· Greater focus on engaging families from the antenatal period until children reach the age of 3.

· Ensure the Children’s Centre Service once under the management of the Local Authority maintains strong links with Healthy Family Teams and Maternity Services.

Early Childhood Services, NCC

Improve outcomes for White British Boys

· Improve outcomes for White British boys by ensuring that the opportunities we are providing for boys in the Early Years Foundation Stage fully engage and support them in developing positive dispositions to learning.

· Increase take up of childcare and early education opportunities for White British Boys as early as possible.

· Provision of Forest School approaches should include a thorough evaluation on the impact for White British Boys, anecdotal information on the impact is insufficient and yet practitioners regularly share information about the successful engagement of boys in Forest School work.

Early Childhood Services, NCC

Improve communication and language skills

· Implement the recommendations highlighted from the Speech Language and Communication Needs Maturity Matrix assessment tool which include:

o Greater engagement with maternity services and specialist SLT services

o Greater ownership by CCGs

o Improve SLCN pathways to specialist SLT services.

· Maintain effective speech and language support through the evaluated Home Talk programme (or similar), which identifies and supports children with early speech and language delay.

· Active promotion of the new national Hungry Little Minds home learning campaign which includes a focus on SLCN.

Early Childhood Services, NCC & Public Health, NCC

Improve the emotional wellbeing and resilience of children

· Promote tools to foster emotional well-being from the earliest stages of life, enhancing resilience and the importance of relationships to help build solid foundations for overall health and well-being. 

· Implement the REAcH programme to ensure that parents have their needs addressed and the intergenerational cycle of disadvantage is broken through the Children’s Centre Service and Healthy Family Teams.

Public Health, NCC

Improve outcomes for Children with SEND

· The significant increase in the number of young claimants of Disability Living Allowance will require a focus on this population to review access and take-up to inform plans to ensure sufficiency of appropriate provision.

· Commissioners should work across County Council departments to help share findings from SEND assessments for children under the age of five; sharing key findings and learning which in turn will inform commissioning decisions and service planning. This will need to include the children that do not meet the thresholds for specialist support.

· Review the use of the Early Years Inclusion Fund and the Disability Access Fund to ensure that children are effectively supported as part of their transition to school.

· Greater promotion of childcare provision to families with children with SEND and increased promotion of funding supplements to early years settings.

Early Childhood Services, NCC

Developmental Delays are identified and supported early

· Embed and review the findings of the 2-year integrated review and the impact for children accessing early years settings; and compare progress against statistical neighbours.

Public Health, NCC

Improve outcomes for children with English as an Additional Language (EAL)

· Explore the specific childcare and health needs of families with English as an Additional Language (including refugees and asylum seekers).

· Encourage schools and health services to report both ethnic origin and English as an additional language using ONS codes to enable improved monitoring and analysis.

Early Childhood Services, NCC

Ensure sufficient high-quality childcare provision is available

Nottinghamshire needs to have robust data about both supply and demand for childcare, it is recommended the local authority evaluates progress of new data collection and monitoring procedures to ensure it supports their market management role and sufficiency duties.

Refer to the Nottinghamshire Childcare Sufficiency Assessment.

Early Childhood Services, NCC

Reduce financial barriers preventing access to childcare

Work should be undertaken with key stakeholders to ensure partners and staff are aware of what support for the costs of childcare is available, and how the free entitlement can be used, and disseminate that information to their client groups.

Refer to the Nottinghamshire Childcare Sufficiency Assessment.

Early Childhood Services, NCC

Offer flexible childcare provision and provide additional childcare during school holidays and increased wrap around care

· Explore flexible delivery models as a matter of urgency; and consider how these models of working can be applied across different types of provision for all age ranges of children.

· The Childcare Sufficiency Assessment identified demand for provision in school holidays and an unmet for after school and before school provision. Work should be undertaken with key stakeholders to identify options for additional childcare and wrap around provision, ensuring all available provision is recognised and promoted through the local authority’s information duty, delivered by the Families Information Service.

Refer to the Nottinghamshire Childcare Sufficiency Assessment.

Early Childhood Services, NCC

Ensure Teenage Parents are effectively engaged and supported

· Improve uptake of Care to Learn Grant for teenage parents

· Gain a better understanding of which services teenage parents access and gain a better understanding of the local barriers for young people in accessing the Children’s Centre Service and childcare.

· Continue to commission evidence based early intervention services for teenage parents such as the Family Nurse Partnership Programme

Public Health and Early Childhood Services, NCC

Consider ceasing the commissioning/delivery of some interventions with no evidence base

Review the interventions provided locally that do not have a clear evidence base, or evaluation and performance do not evidence impact. Commissioners and service providers should not prioritise these interventions where budgets are restricted. This could include baby massage which parents enjoy.

However, it must also be acknowledged that evidence of effectiveness is not a replacement for ongoing evaluation: The fact that an intervention has evidence from a rigorous evaluation conducted at one time and place does not mean that it will be effective again. The evidence described in this chapter is therefore not a replacement for good monitoring and evaluation systems as interventions are set up and delivered.

Public Health and Early Childhood Services, NCC

Provision of behavioural sleep training

Continue to provide behavioural sleep training through the Children’s Centre Service and provide information through Healthy Family Teams during the antenatal and postnatal stage.

Public Health and Early Childhood Services, NCC

Increase the use of social media and web-based resources

Consider increasing and improving information and support available for parents and expectant parents including activities to promote positive home learning environments and parenting support such as ‘Triple P Online’.

Early Childhood Services, NCC

Key contacts

Nottinghamshire County Council Early Childhood Service

0115 977 2510

This is an online synopsis of the topic which shows the executive summary and key contacts sections. To view the full document, please download it.

Full report »