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Better Evidence for A Better Start

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Evidence sits at the heart of the A Better Start approach. In the initial design stages of the programme, the Big Lottery Fund worked with the Social Research Unit (SRU) at Dartington and experts from Warwick University to support the 15 shortlisted partnerships with the resources and tools to develop science and evidence-based strategies.

The following resources may be useful for other areas interested in developing local strategies to improve early childhood development.

The ‘science within’: what matters for child outcomes in the early years

The ‘science within’: what matters for child outcomes in the early years is a framework which pulls together evidence on the key influences on a child’s early development, how this takes place, and the areas where we can make a difference.

Key influences on early development include:

  • Maternal health in pregnancy
  • Birth
  • Parenting and the home environment in the early years
  • Family’s economic situation and the wider physical and social environment that surround them
  • A child’s age, gender and temperament.

The framework looks at key influences on a child’s vulnerability and resilience to adversity, including neuroscience, foetal programming and epigenetics, and concludes by identifying what professionals can do to improve child development outcomes.

Read the report

What works: an overview of the evidence on giving children a better start

What works: an overview of the best available evidence on giving children a better start summarises what is known about ‘what works’ to support parents and parenting during pregnancy and the child’s first four years.

The review looks across different types of interventions including policies, programmes, practices, processes, quality improvement, and population-level strategies.

As well as identifying a range of evidence-based interventions, What Works highlights where there is a need for more research to understand the effectiveness of interventions. It also emphasises the importance of continuing to further our understanding of evaluation and implementation science :

“Even when we feel confident about particular ways of working or programmes, the real world is a messy place with different contexts, cultures and systems to complicate the delivery process. This means that ‘what works’ is ‘what is most likely to work’.”

Read the report