Developing a sustainable intervention for disadvantaged children

This project aims to develop and evaluate an innovative early intervention for disadvantaged families that has the potential to provide a scalable and sustainable model to improve the provision of quality early education among disadvantaged children in England.

The earliest years of a child’s life can have a profound impact on their long-term development. During this period, the child’s parents play a crucial role in supporting the development of their child. Yet some children, particularly those living in poverty, fail to receive such support and face risks that can prevent them from fulfilling their potential.

In England large gaps in cognitive and socio-emotional development already exist between low and high SES children by the time they are eligible for free formal early education. Although research shows that early childhood interventions that target disadvantaged children can reduce such gaps, designing and delivering programmes for such young children in a scalable and sustainable fashion remains a challenge, and provision of the under-twos is very limited in England.

Through a unique partnership between leading academics and a committed children’s services team at Peterborough City Council, the project team plan to lay the groundwork for an optimally informative evaluation of a home-visiting programme targeting disadvantaged children aged 6 months to 3 years old, and aimed at strengthening parenting practices.

The team will assess current child-rearing practices and identify shortcomings of existing services in order to adapt the Reach Up Early Childhood Parenting Programme, which has been shown to improve children’s outcomes in several developing countries. The adapted programme will be piloted with a small number of families, and the project will assess the feasibility of evaluating the programme through a future Randomised Controlled Trial.