Designing and delivering a programme of shared learning and development support for The National Lottery Community Fund.
A Better Start is a ten-year (2015-2025), £215 million programme set up by The National Lottery Community Fund, the largest funder of community activity in the UK.
Five A Better Start partnerships, based in Blackpool, Bradford, Lambeth, Nottingham and Southend, are supporting families to give their babies and very young children the best possible start in life.
Working with local parents, the A Better Start partnerships are developing and testing ways to improve their children’s diet and nutrition, social and emotional development, and speech, language and communication.
The work of the programme is grounded in scientific evidence and research. A Better Start is place-based and enabling systems change. It aims to improve the way that organisations work together and with families to shift attitudes and spending towards preventing problems that can start in early life. A Better Start is one of five major programmes set up by The National Lottery Community Fund to test and learn from new approaches to designing services which aim to make people’s lives healthier and happier.
To support this work, NCB is designing and delivering an ambitious programme of shared learning and development support for A Better Start, working within, across and beyond the five partnership areas.
Our aim is to amplify the impact of these programmes by:
Embedding a culture of learning within and between the partnerships.
Harnessing the best available evidence about what works in improving outcomes for children.
Sharing the partnerships’ experiences in creating innovative services far and wide, so that others working in early childhood development or place-based systems change can benefit.
Over the remaining years of A Better Start, NCB is coordinating several strands of work to share learning and pave the way for better services, and ultimately better outcomes, for young children.
This work is co-designed with our stakeholders, and includes drawing on the first-hand experiences of children and families themselves. It includes:
Coordinating ‘Communities of Practice’ to bring together practitioners within the partnerships to share learning on what works and develop practitioner focuses solutions to improve service delivery.
Organising a programme of events including knowledge-sharing events and an annual conference.
Developing an exciting schedule of content based around the A Better Start website, including webinars, blogs, reports, articles, a stakeholder newsletter and case studies.
NCB has worked with all five ABS partnerships to develop a number of programme Insight Reports to help amplify the learning from the programme.
These publications include theory, contemporary evidence and case studies from each partnership to demonstrate how they are working in local areas to improve outcomes for children and families.
- A Better Start through workforce innovation. This issue is number eight in the series. It provides a summary of emerging evidence highlighting the learning from workforce innovation across the five partnerships, and discusses how A Better Start contributes to a skilled and knowledgeable early years workforce of the future.
- A Better Start through improving child development outcomes shares the learning on how ABS partnerships have supported infant and early childhood development within their work, from the beginning of the programme, and through the challenging times of the past few years.
- Trauma-informed practice in early child development provides a summary of emerging evidence in the area of childhood trauma and adversity, and shares the learning on how ABS partnerships have embedded an awareness of the impact of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) within their work, and how they are supporting the development of traumainformed practice, within and outside of their partnerships.
- Building on the report below and the debate and presentations at our national conference on co-production - Parents in the Driving Seat - our report entitled Parent, Family and Community Engagement - Learning from A Better Start shows the many ways in which co-production has been embraced across the programme.
- Co-Producing early years support with parents, families and children is central to everything we do. Our 'insight' report, A Better Start Through Better Systems - Parent, Family and Community Engagement, was produced to inform debate at our first annual conference.
- Our programme ‘insight’ report Responding to COVID-19 highlights how the pandemic is affecting young children and their families and shares insights from A Better Start partnerships as they work to understand the impact of the pandemic, and respond to emerging needs.
- Our previous programme report, A Better Start through Better Systems, highlights contemporary approaches to effective systems change and includes case studies from across the five A Better Start partnerships.
- Written in February 2020, A Better Start: Five Years of Learning celebrates the achievements of the A Better Start partnerships as they completed their first five years, drawing on the voices of practitioners and members of local communities to highlight their impact.
NCB is now supporting the programme to engage effectively with national policymakers.
We plan to facilitate this in a number of ways, including:
- Facilitating a two-way dialogue between officials and ABS partnerships on the programme’s unique approach and strategy to inform policy development. We will do this by:
- Arranging bespoke, in-depth sessions with the five partnerships on a range of topics.
- Sharing wider engagement opportunities with the partnerships to allow them to feed into policy development.
- Delivering a cross-government policy roundtable with ABS policy leads and officials.
- Enabling a fruitful exchange of the unique insights and learning from the five partnerships over the course of the programme.
- Identifying opportunities for exemplars of good practice from the partnerships to be cited in government guidance.
- Producing bespoke evidence briefings for policy makers, further enabling officials to engage with evidence, learning and best practice from the programme.
To find out more please contact Ava Berry, Research and Policy Officer at NCB: [email protected]
Every year NCB organises a national conference to share learning from A Better Start.
In March 2023, the theme of our annual conference was "Improving early childhoods in the face of deepening uncertainty".
We recorded the event and you can watch each of the five sessions below:
Previous annual learning events
In 2022, our event was titled 'Reducing Inequalities in Early Childhood: Learning from A Better Start'. You can read a report summarising the event here, and there is a video recording of the event too.
Addressing the 'baby blindspot' in child mental health support
In June 2021, The five A Better Start partnerships came together to provide a free webinar on infant mental health support. Find out more here.