The Institute of Health Equity (IHE) has created a new framework to help children's centres and local authorities improve the development of children in the early-years in the UK.

One of the key aims of An Equal Start: Improving Outcomes in Children's Centres, is to reduce inequalities in under-5s upbringing with "a renewed focus on parenting and improving parents' lives" highlighted as key to achieving this.

A good level of development in the early years (pregnancy to five-years-old) is associated with life-long engagement in learning, higher levels of qualifications, higher wages and better health.

However, last February the IHE's annual indicators for health inequalities showed large disparities in early years abilities across England, with an average of only 59% of children reaching a good level of development at age five.

Professor Sir Michael Marmot of the Institute of Health Equity said: "This framework addresses the fact that we are currently failing our children on a grand scale.

"It is ambitious, yet practical and aligned enough with the required measurement regimes to give Children's Centre leaders a simple approach to ensure their services work. It will be of particular use locally as discussions about resources continue. And it is most powerful when used in parallel with needs assessments that paint a picture of a local community and the strengths and gaps in raising the youngest members."

The Marmot Review 'Fair Society, Healthy Lives', published in February 2010, prioritised action to reduce inequalities in the early years and the IHE's Children's Outcomes Framework identifies the priority outcomes for which Children's Centres should be striving, and is based on the best available evidence about what is most important for children's early development and a successful and healthy later life.

The framework, which was commissioned by charity 4Children suggests that "the home learning environment is critical even in the earliest months."

Commenting on the importance of early year's provision, 4Chilren CEO Anne Longfield said: "The role of parents is critical in the early years, along with better qualified staff and parents with the right support we can work together to get the early years foundation stage of to a flying start for our children."

Here is a full breakdown of the frameworks aims and objectives:

Areas for focus 

Proposed outcomes 

Children are developing well 

Cognitive development 

1.      All children developing age appropriate skills in drawing and copying 

2.      Children increase the level to which they pay attention during activities and to the people around them 

Communication and language development 

3.      Children are developing age appropriate comprehension of spoken and written language 

4.      Children are building age appropriate use of spoken and written language 

Social and emotional development 

5.      Children are engaging in age appropriate play 

6.      Children have age appropriate self-management and self-control 

Physical development 

7.      Reduction in the numbers of children born with low birth-weight 

8.      Reduce the number of children with high or  low Body Mass Index 

Parenting promotes development 

Creating safe and healthy environment 

9.      Reduction in the numbers of mothers who smoke during pregnancy 

10.    Increase in the number of mothers who breastfeed 

Promoting an Active Learning Environment 

11.    Increased number and frequency of parents regularly talking to their child using a wide range of words and sentence structures 

12.    More parents are reading to their child every day 

Positive Parenting 

13.    More parents are regularly engaging positively with their children 

14.    More parents are actively listening to their children 

15.    More parents are setting and reinforcing boundaries   

Parent context enables good parenting 

Good mental wellbeing 

16.    More parents are experiencing lower levels of stress in their home and in their lives 

17.    Increase in the number of parents with good mental wellbeing 

18.    More parents have greater levels of support from friends and / or family 

Knowledge and skills 

19.    More parents are improving their basic skills, particularly in literacy and numeracy 

20.    More parents are increasing their knowledge and application of good parenting 

Be financially self-supporting 

21.    Parents are accessing good work or developing the skills needed for employment, particularly those furthest away from the labour market 

For more information and to read the framework in full visit www.instituteofhealthequity.org 

Posted 12/07/2012 by richard.hook@pavpub.com