Early intervention is about improving the abilities of every parent to provide a supportive and enriching environment for their children to grow up in. This will then give the next generation the best chance to build the skills needed to engage in positive parenting themselves. Early intervention covers an array of different sectors including education, health, and crime.
It can take the form of a parenting programme for a pregnant mother and her partner or a behaviour class for adolescents who are at risk of being involved in crime. There has been overwhelming evidence that children’s life chances are most heavily predicated on their development in the first five years of their life. It is recognised that the first few years of a child’s life are a particularly sensitive period in the process of development, laying a foundation in childhood and beyond for cognitive functioning; behavioural, social, and self-regulatory capacities; and physical health. Some of the evidence used to shape policy and practice comes from the growing interest in the ecological approach to a children’s development, this was first developed by Bronfenbrenner. Bronfenbrenner’s ecological systems model may provide a useful theoretical framework for allowing the interactional nature of influences on health and well-being but should be employed critically in view of other developing theoretical approaches (Underdown 2007).
In 2003 the government published a Green Paper called Every Child Matters. The government consulted with a range of children, young people and families, who identified five outcomes which were important to them and were important to well-being in childhood and later life. These were:Being healthy – enjoying good physical and mental health and living a healthy lifestyle.Staying safe – being protected from harm and neglect.Enjoying and achieving – getting the most out of life and developing the skills for adulthood.Making a positive contribution – being involved with the community and society and not engaging in anti-social or offending behaviour.Economic well-being – not being prevented by economic disadvantage from achieving their full potential. These five outcomes became the centre of the Every Child Matters document.
The government then defined how these outcomes were to be achieved by focussing on four main areas. These areas include supporting parents and carers and early intervention. The Children’s Act in 2004 raised the degree of accountability, especially at Local Authority level for intervention and the health and well-being of children. The Child Care Act 2006 sets out the following legal duties that the local authorities are required to ensure sufficient childcare. The local authorities are also required to provide information to parents and their families. The Early Years Foundation stage was introduced for practitioners to follow which sets the standards for the learning, development and care for children from birth to 5 years old. It is an important role as a practitioner to have the knowledge and understanding of learning, child development and the milestones so we are able to identify if there are any development delays occurring and seek the necessary support needed.
Timing of intervention becomes particularly important when a child runs the risk of missing an opportunity to learn during a state of maximum readiness. If the most teachable moments or stages of greatest readiness are not taken advantage of, a child may have difficulty learning a particular skill at a later time. Karnes and Lee (1978) cited in Bailey (2008) noted that ‘only through early identification and appropriate programming can children develop their potential’. In his report Field (2010,p.5) states ‘that later interventions to help poorly performing children can be effective, but generally the most effective and cost-effective way to help and support families is in the earliest years of a child’s life’. Marmot (2012, p.
94) also states’ that although later interventions are important they are considerably less effective if they have not had a good early foundation’. The Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families announced in June 2008 a review of the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) for 2010. In the review Dame Tickle introduced a two year old progress report. The aims of the progress check was to review a child’s development in the three prime areas of the EYFS which are personal, social and emotional development, communication and language and physical development. At this progress check stage any additional needs can be picked up and if needed extra support can be offer to help the child reach their potential. The Healthy Child Programme which was published in 2009 aims to bring together health, education and other main partners to deliver an effective programme for prevention and support. As part of the Healthy Child Programme (HCP) in the UK, children have a health and development review at the age of 2-2.5 years.
This is carried out by the health visitor. Assessment is vital for identifying children who may benefit from intervention or who may need additional support. In our setting we ask parents to bring in this check so we can see it and use it alongside the 2 year check we do. We use these results and assessments throughout the child’s time with us to help identify any development delays. It is important that if we identify any delays of development we act on these by talking to the setting Special Educational Needs Co-Ordinator (SENCO). The SENCO will then work together with the key person and parents to decide which intervention would be best to support the child. A referral can be made but only with the consent of the parent.The significance of agencies working in partnership to meet the needs of children and families lies at the heart of recent changes in approach to service development and delivery.
The Child Care Act 2006 states that agencies are required to work together. Many of the examples of effective early intervention arise from such practice, in the form of multi-disciplinary teams working with children and families. Multi-agency working is a varied number of services that have the collective aim to provide the best for children and their carers who are in need. The people involved to support a child’s needs could be a social worker, play specialist, early year’s practitioners, educational psychologists, health workers speech and language therapists, and any person with the ability to step in and help a child when their development is not meeting the expected development patterns. The professionals will all work together to support children and their families to ensure that children and younger people achieve their full potential. We as a setting can give the necessary emotional, educational support to families as this provides a vital link between the inter- agencies and the family.Through a range of early interventions we can narrow the gap and give vulnerable and disadvantaged children the extra help that they need (McAuley and Rose 2010) to become well rounded adults.
Play and leisure is an important element to supporting children’s physical and emotional well-being, growth, learning and development. Play and leisure can support children’s creativity and cultural awareness. As children play they learn to master new knowledge at their own rate and in their own way. In play learning is fun and free from worry or stress for children.
There are different types of play and leisure it can be structured, non-structured, formal and non–formal. In our setting we plan structured and non – structured play. Practitioner in our setting plan both adult led, focused activities which are a more structured way of learning and by using the child’s interest and continuous provision, which is non – structures and non- formal .We plan focused activities for our key children, by looking at their development and see what their next steps and gaps in their individual learning are. This follows Piaget’s theory planning for individual children to meet the different stages of development and plan activities to close the gaps, reach the next step. We also look at our environment and use this to capture unplanned learning and encouraging children to develop in a holistic way. Through play and leisure children and young people explore the world around them and learn to take responsibility for their own choices.