Frank Field MP was commissioned by the British Prime Minister in June 2010 to provide an independent review on poverty and life chances by the end of the year. The aim of the review is to:
• generate a broader debate about the nature and extent of poverty in the UK;
• examine the case for reforms to poverty measures, in particular for the inclusion of non financial elements;
• explore how a child’s home environment affects their chances of being ready to take full advantage of their schooling; and
• recommend potential action by government and other institutions to reduce poverty and enhance life chances for the least advantaged, consistent with the Government’s fiscal strategy.
His report is now available and although it is a UK government document it is well worth a read you can download it here TheFoundationYears1 The following is a quotation from the introduction on the findings of the review
We have found overwhelming evidence that children’s life chances are most heavily predicated on their development in the first five years of life. It is family background, parental education, good parenting and the opportunities for learning and development in those crucial years that together matter more to children than money, in determining whether their potential is realised in adult life. The things that matter most are a healthy pregnancy; good maternal mental health; secure bonding with the child; love and responsiveness of parents along with clear boundaries, as well as opportunities for a child’s cognitive, language and social and emotional development. Good services matter too: health services, Children’s Centres and high quality childcare. (Page 7 The Foundation Years 2010)
Can’t disagree with that – but this is not just another report weighing the evidence on the importance of early years. In chapter four he describes a very practical vision for ‘Building Foundations Years Services’ the principles of which which I think many practitioners in Scotland would find very positive.
Perhaps one of the key things for me in this report is that he puts parents at the centre of his thinking – not in a patronising way – but making it clear that improving outcomes for children cannot be achieved by services alone.
What parents do is the most important factor in children’s development. Services need to be better at engaging parents and building on their strengths. More opportunities to learn parenting skills should be provided, including through the school curriculum.