Supporting families with young children in Letchworth

Alastair Stewart, Head of Grants, Partnerships and Community Services, updates us about how the Foundation has been working with partners to support families with young children in Letchworth.

Improving Life Chances is one of the strands in the Foundation’s Strategic Plan. We are using evidence to help create an environment where young children can grow up in a supportive and nurturing community.

Bringing about positive social change

Positive beginnings set us all up for life. That’s why we are working with statutory and voluntary partners to explore ways in which we can achieve this for children in Letchworth. The first steps have been to share the aims of the Foundation’s work with partners in the town who are already engaging with families.  We have met with organisations who have similar goals to the Foundation, including Lankelly Chase in Coventry, The Corra Foundation in Kilwinning and Ayr and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation in Hull. These visits, coupled with background reading on the work undertaken by Dartington Service Design Lab on behalf of Save the Children and the Local Government Association, has helped us to understand our local environment and identify ways to bring about positive social change.

Working together to create family activities

With partners in Letchworth we are looking at opportunities to co-design activities with local families and this has already happened with a new series of community activities for families.  Initially everyone involved, including parents and children, worked together to agree a new brand. Several logos were designed which were shared with families at a school fete, family drop ins and stay and play sessions.  Their feedback was gathered and this led to the creation of the Acorn Activities logo and brand which will be used across all family activities, including a new games library launching in February. Families will have the opportunity to take games home in an Acorn Activities draw string bag with the logo chosen by families.

To help children understand the games, partners have worked on prompt cards to engage with children and will use online videos (via social media) to bring the games to life.  They will also have a rewards system which is a great way to encourage children to participate and recognise achievement. These ideas have come through partnership working with the Early Years Lead from a local primary school and the Deputy Team Manager at the North Herts Family Centre.  This was based on what works well within the school and emerging good practice in early years learning.

Stay and play sessions are also an excellent opportunity for families to spend time together, get to know their child’s nursery teacher and meet other families. These sessions will also be introduced with the games library and there will be regular opportunities across the year for families to drop in and play games with their children.

Evaluating what we do

This work is at a very early stage and it is important that we evaluate the impact of the work throughout to ensure we are not overloading partners.  We also need to ensure that the information is informing our work as well as the wider work of our partners.

We continue to collaborate with partners, gathering information from our meetings and looking at best practice nationally to inform the next phase of work. This evidence gathering approach is important as it lays the foundations for any activities that are introduced to give them the best possible chance of being successful.

Alastair Stewart