Healthy Happy Bairns Conference 7th Feb

Over 170 people from parents to politicians attended the Healthy Happy Bairns conference on 7th Feb at the Quayside in Musselburgh.

There was a lot of positive energy, and emotion, throughout the day which was very well chaired by local parent and former health minister Susan Deacon.

The day started with Councillor Roger Knox welcoming Aileen Campbell the Scottish Government’s early years minister.

Aileen outlined the government and her personal support for the early years agenda and emphasised the importance of early years in the early intervention and prevention agenda which is so important to modernising public services in Scotland.  healthy happy bairns conference ministers speech

As her speech came to an end children from Wallyford and Whitecraig surprised the participants by standing up to sing – ‘Lean on Me’. By the end of the first verse participants were further surprised when the adult members of the Wallyford and Whitecraig ‘Singstars’ stood to join the children singing. By the end of the song the whole conference was on its feet singing and clapping to the rhythm of the song. The young musicians from Musselburgh Grammar who had been hidden behind the conference screen emerged with music teacher Jo Halliday  – too much applause. The ‘flash mob’ singing was fun, but also hopefully made the point that engaging children and parents is key to the mission of Support from the Start and that means we have to think and act imaginatively.

The words of the song  ‘Lean on me’ were echoed in some of the themes that parents who had agreed to speak at the conference brought to the fore. Inga, Michele and two Tracey’s  gave often very personal and emotionally powerfull statements about what had been important to them when they had needed support. Each story was very differnt but I think some of the common themes included:-

– Any parent can need support no matter their circumstances

– Asking for support is not always an easy thing to do and professionals can make this much easier when they listen

– People who need support want to be treated as individual human beings not as a problem, whether that’s defined by medical  diagnosis or social / psychological assessment

– Support has to be accessible in terms of time and place and flexible people orientated services are most valued by parents

 – If we want healthy, happy bairns we have to have healthy, happy parents

 The parents were followed by Don Ledingham, chair of the Support from the Start planning board and Director of Education and Children’s Services for East Lothian Council on the theme of Creating a space for change. He has posted the contents of his presentation on his learning log

Dr Rosemary Geddes gave a presentation in the early development intrument which is being piloted in East Lothian. EDI_SuppFrStart7Feb2012

John Boyce East Lothian Public Health Practitioner & Ann Hume. Manager of Olivebank Child & Family centre in Musselburgh gave a presentation on the evaluation process and findings for Support from the Start. Healthy Happy Bairns evaluation

Over a lunch there was a market place featuring posters of work taken forward by the service champions in East and Midlothia. Pdfs of the poster can be accessed here

HHB Posters 1-5 Final

HHB Posters 6-10 Final

HHB Posters 11-15 Final

HHB Posters 16-22 Final

In the afternoon after a welcome from Jane Hopton assistant general manager for East Lothian Community Health partnership there were three presentations that aimed to set the scene for the afternoon workshops

Karen Grieve, National Programme manager for Equally Well gave a presentation entitled ‘Transforming services an assets based approach’ which outline the ethos and theoretical framework developed through the Equally Well process in Scotland. healthy happy bairns KG slot

Graham Mackenzie Consultant in Public Health for NHS Lothian looked at information resources on childrens health and well being that are available at a community level. Graham MacKenzie

The final presentation / speech was from Ronnie Hill, Head of Children’s services for East Lothian Council in which he set out the vision for the second phase of Support from the Start Ronnies Powerpoint- 07.02.12   Healthy Happy Bairns Conference- The Vision 7.02.12

The workshops were key to the hoped for outcomes for the day there were nine in total one for each school cluster in East Lothian one for participants from the Midlothian test site, one for people with an East Lothian wide role and one for people with a pan Lothan / national role. A seperate post will cover the output from the workshops.

The day ended with reflections from Susan Deacon

Briefing a new chief exec

Service champions recently met with East Lothian Council’s new chief exec Angela Leitch and head of children’s services Ronnie Hill at Whitecraig community centre. The purpose of the meeting was to brief them on Support from the Start. After meeting the champions Angela and Ronnie then went on to meet Whitecraigs community development officer Lena Hutton and Head teacher Joanna Taylor to talk about the impact of Support from the Start on the community of Whitecraig. Joanna & Lena were were accompanied by some other key operational managers of services in East Lothian.


Education Scotland Early Years Conference November 2011

7 teachers from Wallyford and Prestonpans Infant School attended Education Scotland’s Early Years Conference on Saturday 19 November.  It was heartening to hear Angela Constance, Minister for Children and Young People and Bill Maxwell, Chief Executive of Education Scotland affirm their commitment and support to moving strongly forward to give Scotland’s young children the very best opportunities to develop and learn.

Those of us from East Lothian felt very proud during the next session when Professor John Frank demonstrated the need for early intervention strategies to be informed by strong community assessment.  In January 2012, all P1 pupils in East Lothian will be assessed by their teachers as part of East Lothian piloting the EARLY DEVELOPMENT INSTRUMENT. (You can read more about this here  EDI HeadTeachers_conference_26Jan).  Parental input to the assessment and subsequent action was questioned from the floor.  I was able to speak about East Lothian’s plan to roll out early years link up groups in each of the 6 cluster communities in East Lothian where people determined to improve experiences for our youngest children can work together to create local solutions for the community.  You can read about this in Ronnie Hill’s post below on 27 October 2011.

However, the afternoon presentation was the one that had every practitioner and parent or carer in the hall riveted.  The enthusiastic, energetic, radical Dr Margy Whalley, Director of Pen Green Research Centre in Corby, England, inspired us all to keep fighting for the best opportunities for our youngest children in true partnership with their parents and carers.  

What were her key messages?  So so many that we could have listened all afternoon. Why was she only given one hour?

1. In every small community there should be a service for children and their families.  2. Don’t problematise your parents, every parent finds the job of being a parent hard.  Stop ‘othering’ people.  3.  The adults around the child need to learn from each other, accepting that nobody has all the answers.  4.  Change the power balance between citizens (parents/carers) and professionals. Embrace cultural humility.  5.  I loved this one….”You can’t stretch a 2 year old.  A 2 year old has the right to be a 2 year old.” Overteaching damages learning.

You can learn more about Margy, her centre and their approach on their website as she’s going to post her riveting powerpoint there.  I came back fired up with more ideas and determined to use our new early year link group for Prestonpans to work with others to support our under 3s especially and keen to have a Support from the Start visit to Corby!    Sheila Laing, Education Service Champion

Support from the Start phase 2

Equally Well test sites are due to come to an end in March 2012 – East Lothian has been looking at the lessons from the test site as part of a review of early years services commisssioned by the Support from the Start planning Board. The following represents the current thinking in that review of how the lessons from the test site can be developed in the coming years. The ideas in the following paper will be disccussed and developed further at a conference on the 7th Feburary.


East Lothian Council Champions Early Years

A launch pad for the second phase of Support from the Start

1. The Case for Early Years

We know that getting it right for children and young people, families and carers, from the start, ensures that young children are healthy, happy and ready to succeed in life. To a very large extent, children’s life chances, depend on the quality of experience they have in their first years; the secure and reliable attachments they have with parents and other adults important to them; the relationships they build with other children and within their families and communities; the quality of care they are given by parents and other carers; the richness of the learning opportunities they have; and the support and services which children, parents, families and carers can rely on.

East Lothian Council and its partners in health, the voluntary, third and private sectors have done much in recent years in this area. A key development has been the Support from the Start test site which has been running in some areas of the county. Learning from the outcome of the test site will be used to launch an engagement and partnership approach across the county, for the benefit of all East Lothian’s children.

The main aim is to ensure that East Lothian’s children all get the best possible start in life.

To achieve this we will:

· Promote awareness of the importance of early years for everyone in the county

· Engage with parents, young people and partners to take local action to improve the lives of young children and families

· Raise the profile of East Lothian as a national and international example of a place where people work together to give all young children the best possible start in life

· Create an approach free from jargon and unnecessary red tape which is firmly rooted in our communities

· Do things which fit in well with other council and partner priorities and ways of working

· Be open to and share information about imaginative sources of funding, help and learning about what works

· Work with partners to help local people reach their own solutions


2. Engagement with Local People is Key

We will, with our partners, engage with parents, carers, young people, and other people in the county to find out how they think the quality of life of young children and their families can be improved and work with them over the coming years to take action for improvement. We will engage with them to find ways of working together and supporting each other to ensure all young children:

· Have positive parenting and experience good attachments at an early stage

· Are ready to learn and achieve

· Can access quality child care experiences

· Are healthy & happy

· Are not living in poverty

· Have a good opportunity for play, and

· Are protected from harm

3. Cluster Based Engagement

3.1 To achieve this level of engagement we will establish Support from the Start Link-up groups in each cluster area (East Lothian’s school cluster model). These groups will have close relationships with and be linked to local community planning structures where these exist. Each Link-up group will comprise of, champions from a range of services and organisations from all sectors as well as, parents and carers, and others having an interest in the early years. The Link-up groups should be empowered to engage with any relevant Council or Health department.

3.2 In keeping with the lessons from the evaluation of Support from the Start, Council and Health colleagues on Link-up groups should be regarded as Early Years “Service Champions” who should think and act imaginatively and nimbly to assist local parents and communities to improve the quality of life of young children and their families. Council and Health staff serving in Link-up groups should be given time to devote to this work.

3.3 The link up groups will be supported with administrative time and Public Health Practitioners employed by the NHS will help to establish, facilitate and coordinate the work of each Link-up group. A key role will be to ensure that all parents and carers, especially those who do not have positive experiences of working in groups like these, have a voice.

3.4 In keeping with one of the main messages from “Joining the Dots” there should be a “bias for action” and reporting and scrutiny should be kept to a minimum. The Public Health Practitioners would, however, be expected to ensure that any public monies spent by Link-up groups are properly accounted for. In the establishment phase development funds would remains with the Education and Children’s Services department and be administered by the Public Health Practitioner (s), but this may change to more local arrangement as the groups develop.

3.5 Each cluster based Link-up group will be provided with detailed information on their local area, including population trends and service availability and accessibility. This will be provided by Council and Health information analysis working together. Information would be updated on an annual basis. Updates will include data from the use of the Early Development Instrument (EDI) which will help provide an evidence base for early year’s community development. This data from EDI will be available next year but the establishments of Link-up groups should not wait until this is available. Link up groups should also gather and evaluate information about their own areas.

3.6 Link-up groups will be empowered to discuss how services are currently delivered and to engage with service managers to secure change and innovation to better meet local need where change is required. This is not a “one size fits all” approach. Rather it is an approach which will help tailor services to meet the discrete needs of different communities. There will be challenges made to the current way of doing things in some link-up group areas and service managers and staff will need to be responsive to these challenges.

3.7 To be fully effective, each Link-up group will have access to funding which they can deploy to develop new initiatives in their area, or to adjust or build upon existing provision to achieve the objectives set out in sections one and two above. Link-up groups will be encouraged to secure matching funding from a variety of sources.

4. Governance

Link up groups are accountable directly to the Support from the Start Planning Board and their local community through the locality community planning structures. The chair of each link up group would have a seat at the Support from the Start Planning Board. Each link up group would operate within terms of reference set by the Planning Board but would adopt its own ground rules and procedures. The terms of reference would include ensuring that appropriate representation and reporting is established at ommunity/neighbourhood planning groups where these exist.

Each group would have a “simple rules” process for local champions to access the development fund. During the development phase link up groups will report through the Support from the Start engagement officer to the head of childrens services and the Support from the Start Planning Board. The budget for each group would ibe held by the had of chidlrens services and managed by the public health practitioners who would provide reports to the Support from the Start Planning Board. Arrangements for locally held budgets will be developed in accordance with local need and require approval by the Planning Board.

5. Timescale

5.1 The Public Health Practitioners will seek to establish Link-up groups in each cluster from autumn of 2011. While each group will have their own distinct character and priorities, and while each will develop at a varying pace, learning between each will be important and encouraged.

5.2 A county wide conference will take place in February 2012. This conference will be the formal launch pad for the second phase of Support from the Start, it will bring together the range of parents and partners engaged in each of the Link-up groups, Early Years Champions and elected members. The minister for Children and Early Years, national or international experts in the field will be invited to address the conference.


Ronnie Hill

Head of Children’s Services October 2011


Healthy Happy bairns – the conference

Advance notice of conference – put the date in your diary and book early .

Healthy Happy Bairns

Celebrating success and sharing learning from Support from the Start

the early years Equally Well Test site

 Date : 7th Feb 2012

Venue: Quayside Musselburgh

Chaired by Susan Deacon

9am                       Coffee and registration

9.30am                 Welcome from  Councillor Knox – Depute Provost

9.35am                 Opening Remarks from  Angela Constance – Early years Minister

9.45am                  These are the things that matter to me

A parents view of early years services

10.15am               Making a Space for Change

Don Ledingham, Director of Education & Children’s Services, ELC

10.45am                               Refreshment break

11.15am –             Healthy Happy Bairns –

The evaluation of the first two years of Support from the Start  –  ChangexChange team

                             Early years development in East Lothian Communities

The First report from the Early Development Instrument pilot – Dr Rosemary Geddes

Midday                         Transforming services – an assets based approach

Karen Grieve Equally Well national programme manager

12.20.                     Lunch & champions marketplace

Afternoon Session – Support from the Start the next phase

1.00pm                 Opening remarks – TBC

1.10pm                 The Vision – Ronnie Hill, Head of Children’s Services, ELC

1.30pm                 Making the vision a reality

                                  The Best possible start in My community 

                                   Community Workshops

3.30pm                 Close

To book a place contact


Parenting and health inequality

Attended a 1/2 day conference held by the Growing Up in Scotland team earlier this week. The session was led off by the new early years minister Angela Constance and one phrase in her speech caught my attention in particular.

As parents its what we do, not who we are, that is most important.

By which I think she meant that parents who are facing adversity in the form of poverty or poor health can do as good a job as parents who aren’t facing the same adversity. I think we all know that to be true, or at least we want it to be true.

However, it is also true that many parents do become overwhelmed by the adversity they face in bringing up children. Talking to some head teachers in the last week or so has highlighted this for me. In the run up to the summer holidays many parents and children face the summer holidays not with a sense of joy and opportunity, but with with a sense of foreboding -‘how am I going to cope without the structure that school and nursery provides’. For many children this fear is expressed in terms of their behaviour in school, and for the child protection system I suspect it is reflected in the number of Initial Referral Discussions that take place in the run up to the summer holidays. ( I would guess that the economic climate is making the summer holiday period even harder for some parents this year?)

Services are responding with partnership approaches to supporting families over the summer period. In Midlothian Equally well champions are using their development fund to support a project called ‘Play in the Park’ which has been developed in the Woodburn community over a number of years, and will extend it to the neighbouring community in Mayfield, they are also exploring ways of further supporting transition from nursery to P1.  In East Lothian champions are currently discussing whether to support for  a second year a Summer transition programme supporting parents of children who are moving from nursery to P1 who need some additional support

Talking about parenting skills always makes me a bit twitchy, partly because even if nobody is else is making judgements about me as a parent I cant’ help making judgement about myself. For the same reason I have never felt completely comfortable with parenting courses / programmes which are the focus of many parenting strategies. More fundamentally than doubts about my own performance I also wonder whether parenting programmes over emphasise the individual parent behaviours rather than the wider family and community support that is fundamental to good parenting. It is easier to be consistent with rules, be positive and affirmative and to have a good attachment or connection with your child / children if you feel supported as a parent and can access a network of practical and emotional resources. Angela Constance also spoke about the development of a national parenting strategy for Scotland which was a manifesto commitment for the SNP. I for one hope that it is as strategy for family support as much as a strategy for developing parenting skills.

The GUS team have made a particular study of parenting skills and their relationship with health and a presentation on the findings is linked here There is also an audio file of the presentation from Dr Alison Parkes on the GUS website. The slides are quite complex so the audio file is well worth listening to.


‘Healthy Happy Bairns’

The output from a year long evaluation study led by the Queen Margaret Univerity ChangexChange team is linked below.


 The evaluation found that Support from the Start has created significant outcomes for children and their families. Children had new-found confidence, improved social relationships, were better equipped to cope with change, were more ready for school, and benefited from a more structured and more settled day and family life.  Parents involved improved their relationships with their children, were more able to avoid significant mental health issues, were less stressed and more able to cope with life events, had increased personal confidence, and were able to find support from extended social networks.

 We are confident that ‘Healthy Happy Bairns’ will be a source of ideas and inspiration for a range of professionals and organisations seeking to make a difference to health inequalities in the early years.  We would recommend that practitioners, managers and leaders take the learning and use it to make the changes required to create a positive impact in the early years experience of all children, so that they can secure a stable, healthy and happy future.


Baby Brain Map

Morag Nicholson – senior health promotion specialist and service champion recently brought this web resource to my attention.

It is an interesting interactive baby brain map site

Is this the kind of thing that  could be promoted to parents in Scotland?

As a 49 year old who considers himself reasonably computer/ Internet  literate, I am still very aware of a gulf between my generation and  younger generations of  people who are growing up immersed in a web based information culture. 

I belong to that generation who wear wrist watches even though such single use devices are now completely outmoded. The mobile phone is the new generations wrist watch, just as I automatically put my wrist watch on in the morning my sons turn their mobiles on. In fact its their mobiles that wake them up with their alarm functions.

During some engagement work with parents in Midlothian I asked parents of nursery aged children where they would go for advice and help – the Internet was a very common response.

Champions development fund

Service & Community champions are a key part of Support from the Start, they are people with an interest in health, equality and the early years from across a wide range of services.

Champions have access to shared learning (action learning) and a small peer reviewed development fund. Many exciting project have been taken forward by the champions using this fund – but this by no means represents the total of initiatives that champions have taken forward only those for which they have used development funds. A link to a monitoring rport for the fund over the financial year 2010 – 2011 is below –

Summary 2010 2011 (4)