Fairer Start Local: closing the disadvantage gap
This report explores the development and delivery of a programme of innovation partnerships between Nesta and three local authorities, working together to close the disadvantage gap in the early years across England
What would it take to close the disadvantage gap at age five? City of York Council, Leeds City Council and Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council and the Greater Manchester Combined Authority have partnered with Nesta to find some answers to this question. Together, we formed Fairer Start Local – a programme of innovation partnerships committed to making a measurable impact on outcomes for disadvantaged children – including their physical, cognitive, social and emotional development.
In this report, we discuss the outcomes of three rapid discovery projects that took place between April and July 2021 to test the concept of Fairer Start Local partnerships. The three project teams developed the following hypotheses to guide this work:
- If we could better understand who is and who isn’t accessing services, we could listen to those families and learn how to better meet their needs and improve children’s speech, language and communication outcomes.
- If we could better understand what support parents want and how they want to access it, we could improve children’s social and emotional development.
- If we knew the barriers to parents taking up services for two year olds, we could support more families and improve outcomes for two year olds.
Local partnerships proved a powerful approach. We found:
- a strong commitment among local partners to improving children’s outcomes
- a shared desire among service leaders to be data- and evidence-informed in how they plan early years services
- practitioners working in local services sharing their passion for supporting families and their expertise in early child development
- local parents voicing a strong desire to support their children’s development and an interest in helping other families in their community
The initial projects identified common challenges and opportunities for future work to strengthen local services and improve children’s outcomes. Recommended areas for innovation include:
- improving data infrastructure so that local authorities can more easily analyse the data they collect and use it to evaluate their services and target children in need effectively
- joining up data between health services, children’s centres and early education provision to support better coordination. If services can begin working towards the same metrics, they can build a shared understanding of desired outcomes and better coordinate interventions
- increasing service uptake in disadvantaged communities through identifying barriers to engagement, and understanding what services parents and carers would most value
- building the infrastructure to monitor service delivery in real time so that local authorities can make a robust assessment of the impact of interventions, target families in need and take an evidence-based approach to developing practice
Having tested these short-term partnerships and found them to be an effective way of working, all of the partners involved in the discovery projects (Nesta, Leeds, Stockport and the Greater Manchester Combined Authority and York) are committed to building a longer-term collaboration over the next three to five years.
Through this partnership we will develop new ways of supporting families in the early years and test whether they are successful in reducing the outcome gap for disadvantaged children.