Evaluation of Jersey early years programme shows impressive impact despite challenges of the pandemic

An evaluation of the final phase of the Jersey Early Childhood Development Programme – a five-year initiative led by the National Children’s Bureau with the Jersey Child Care Trust, Government of Jersey and Best Start Partnership – has found the project contributed to better outcomes for young children despite the pandemic.

The evaluation found the project is helping improve standards in nurseries and early years settings, and developing practitioners understanding and skills so they can support children to meet their early learning goals, especially in reading, writing, and numbers.

The Early Childhood Development Programme, funded by UBS Optimus Foundation UK, aims to improve outcomes in Jersey through several different strands of work:

  • Making it REAL training – aimed at improving parents’ and practitioners’ understanding of how to encourage young children to develop literacy and numeracy skills.
  • Outcomes Based Accountability (OBA) – a proven method to help services measure and improve their impact.
  • Knowledge Makes Change seminars and monthly bulletins providing information on ‘what works’ for young children and their families to ensure they reach their potential.
  • Developing an Early Years Outcomes Framework setting out a Jersey-wide approach to supporting young children, their families and the communities they live in, to thrive.

The evaluation, conducted by CREC – The Centre for Research in Early Childhood – found ‘strong quantitative and qualitative evidence’ that:

  1. The use of OBA has improved the planning of services and is encouraging collaborative working;
  2. The capacity of the early years sector at strategic and operational levels has been significantly increased, with trained system leaders or champions to take the work forward;
  3. The investment in workforce training and service improvement is leading to an increase in the quality of early learning and childcare offered on the island.

The independent evaluation concluded that these achievements ‘should, over time, work to improve child outcomes, particularly in language, literacy and maths, and particularly for those who currently underachieve on the island.’

These accomplishments were made despite the challenges of the pandemic which had a significant impact on the delivery of the final year of the Jersey Childhood Early Development Programme.

As Ellie Suggate-Francis, Assistant Director of the Early Childhood Unit at the National Children’s Bureau, commented:

“Lockdown and social distancing measures forced a total re-design of programme delivery. I feel proud to have witnessed how early years teachers and practitioners not only maintained provision and support for children and families throughout the most challenging of times of their careers, but also continued engaging with the programme, attending training and delivering early literacy and maths projects to children.”

The full evaluation report can be found here.