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OPINION

Early years professionals offered support through children's charity website

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Towards the end of 2011, the national children’s charity 4Children, working in conjunction with the Department for Education, launched a new website aimed at professionals working with children in the early years.

The site is one of the central features of the government’s Early Years and Childcare strategic partnership in which 4Children are the lead partner.

The partnership, which also includes Children England, Daycare Trust, Contact a Family and the Fatherhood Institute, aims to bring together voluntary sector partners to develop collaborative resources for early years professionals, coordinate communication between the sector and the department, build strong links with other sectors including healthcare and develop strong working relationships across the voluntary, public and commercial sectors.

Head of Early Years at 4Children Sue Robb said; “The partnership offers an excellent opportunity for the sector to demonstrate the role we can play. The range of themes and issues that are covered through the site and forum means that professionals from all sectors will find the site useful.”

The Foundations Years website is the central tool the partnership uses to provide support to professionals from across the sector. It has been warmly welcomed, since its launch receiving over 30,000 unique visitors and dozens of helpful suggestions for expansion. The site focuses on four themes covering the early years, offering specific topics of interest relating to: child development; early education; safeguarding; and engaging parents.

The site also provides support for parents, including recognition of their needs and concerns and an emphasis on their central role in every child’s life to ensure they can deliver the best for their children, aiming to provide parents with all the information they need and guide them through these key formative years as comfortably as possible.

A key role of the strategic partnership is building productive links both inside and outside of the early years sector, such as sharing best practice with the Department of Health so as to ensure that the support for children and families is at its peak in the early years.

4Children allow early years professionals to take full advantage of the expansion of the health visitor programme, as part of their aim to ensure that health, education and childcare work together in the most effective ways in Sure Start centres across the country. The healthy child programme, which focuses on the foundation years, forms a key area in which health and the early years can collaborate for mutual
gain.

2012 will see the launch of a number of interactive elements on the 4Children website, including an interactive forum offering expert advice, so as to further boost the opportunity for sharing best practice and trouble-shooting difficult issues. Users will be able to post topics of their choosing to start conversations with other professionals, post questions for others to answer and share examples of innovative practices.

Sue Robb, Head of Early Years at 4Children said: “A number of challenges are currently facing the early years sector including declining financial sustainability, the expansion of the two-year-old offer, the implementation of the expanded health visitor programme, and the implementation of the new Early Years Foundation Stage framework. We hope that the Foundation Years site will provide helpful support to professionals throughout the period to help maintain the excellent work currently being delivered by the sector.”

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Readers' comments (1)

  • Bringing back the health visiting register would be a good start. Child health outcomes have taken a nosedive ever since, especially in the first years of life.

    Closing the HV register allowed the education programme to dwindle away and the workforce numbers to collapse, especially in major cities. It's probably the worst child welfare policy decision of the last 25 years.

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