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Our aim

ENSURE THAT CHILDREN AGED 0-4 HAVE THE BEST ACTIVE START IN LIFE WITH PHYSICAL LITERACY PRIORITISED AS A CENTRAL FEATURE OF STARTING WELL.

Why?

Evidence shows that early years interventions have the greatest power to disrupt inequalities, as well as being the most cost-effective with significant returns on investment . Increasing physical activity in children between the ages of 0-4 can have short and long-term health benefits and developmental health outcomes , .

In Greater Manchester, eight out of the ten boroughs are below the national average for reaching the least expected level of physical development. However, a recent Marmot evaluation of Greater Manchester shows that progress is being made and the gap between national and Greater Manchester levels for good child development is closing. This is thanks to sustained effort and prioritising early years development across Greater Manchester.

What have we done?

Throughout the last 12 months, we have continued to work alongside GMCA (Greater Manchester Combined Authority) as part of the Physical Development Task and Finish Group to raise the importance of physical development and physical activity in supporting school readiness in the under 5s.

As a group we have:
• Created a set of Early Years Leaflets for parents and carers to support under 5s physical development in the home
• Started to map the opportunities available for under 5s, as well as understanding the workforce training available. The results from this will shape the approach and direction of the physical development pathway group going forward
• Co-created a GM-wide survey to understand how we can improve parents’ understanding and awareness of physical development and physical activity. The findings will form the basis of our future plan for this work across the city-region.

Case study: Supporting families through the Covid-19 pandemic

For all age groups, the opportunity to move was severely affected during the lockdown periods. Opportunities were even greater reduced for people living in an area of deprivation. Face-to-face support for under 5s was affected by social distancing and venue restrictions. Therefore, we worked with GMCA and the Physical Development Task and Finish Group to create a new set of leaflets to provide guidance to parents and carers to support their children’s physical development, from birth through to starting school. The aim was for these leaflets to be a stable resource to complement the key messages from professionals and provide ideas for parents to support their children to move at home without requiring large spaces or expensive equipment.

The leaflets (separated into stages of development) gave ten top tips for movement for babies, toddlers and pre-schoolers, all of which could be done in the home or in a suitable outdoor space. The project was co-produced by GreaterSport and GMCA with support from the Greater Manchester School Readiness Physical Development Task and Finish Group, and supported the work being done to tackle the issue of school readiness in Greater Manchester. The leaflets were digitally available for all local authorities to access free of charge. They were also distributed across the early years workforce in Greater Manchester to ensure as many parents and carers as possible could access the information. These included health visitors; midwives; occupational therapists; nursery practitioners; schools; community trusts; Sure Start centres, and early years training providers. The leaflets also attracted national attention; with Wakefield Council, Oxfordshire County Council, Somerset Occupational Health Services, Somerset Active Partnership, and Birmingham Active Partnership all requesting to use the leaflets to support physical development messaging in their areas.

Next Generation Nursery & Schoolies Club Ltd. in Wigan shared feedback from a nursery manager about how they used the leaflets:

'After receiving the leaflets we shared these to our Facebook page that parents access and promoted their use. We also decided to utilise them moving forwards by adding them into our new starter induction packs for children and families alongside the other leaflets, information and activity ideas we put in there as we hadn’t covered physical development. Additionally, for our existing children the physical activities are going out at the end of this term with the children’s end of term progress report packs in each room to ensure that each parent has received an actual copy.We felt that the leaflets were really important and useful to share during these unprecedented times, with local and national lockdowns, to support not only the child but the parents and carers too. The leaflets give ideas and activities that involve both the child and the parent or carer in turn keeping them both engaged and physically active during times of restriction when they may be stuck at home and not able to access their usual activities – such as the use of play centres, parks or play groups. They also give parents and carers a focus, which can in turn positively support their mental health and wellbeing in knowing that they are providing for their child and support their learning and development during these times.’

Further details

More information on our work within the Start Well priority please contact Jess@greatersport.co.uk.