The Child’s Journey: Sure Start Children’s Centres Supporting Parents, Kirklees

Themes this local practice example relates to:

  • Early Years
  • Families, Parents and Carers
  • General resources
  • Local area early intervention strategies

Basic details


Organisation submitting example

Kirklees Local Authority – Children and Young People’s Service

Local authority/local area:


The context and rationale

The Child’s Journey: Sure Start Children’s Centres supporting parents

In March 2006, the Batley, Birstall and Birkenshaw locality, one of seven localities in Kirklees, was developing 5 Children’s Centres in the area to serve around 5,000 children under 5 years and their families. The area had high levels of disadvantage with pockets of affluence and children’s attainment generally was poor. 

It was in this context that Children’s Centre staff first envisaged the delivery of a structured framework to help parents to support their children’s development through Children’s Centres – The Child’s Journey.

Getting together to plan the delivery of services in Batley at the time were 3 Children’s Centre Managers, a Family Support Manager and the equivalent of 1.5 FTE Play and Learning Workers. 

Intervention was needed to address the following:

• the gap was wide between the lowest achieving children and the highest achieving children;
• Foundation Stage profile scores were both below the national average and when compared to the neighbouring local authorities were also significantly below them (Kirklees was ranked 6th out of 7);
• Head teachers were reporting poor skills on entry to maintained nursery and school;
• Head teachers also reported that balance and co-ordination skills were poor and children were lacking in skills around independence; 
• large numbers of children were being referred to the speech and language service;
• there were conflicting messages from different services, which was confusing for parents. 

The Child’s Journey grew from our determination to address these issues. We needed to work on a range of key messages and understand how the different key priorities of the service were impacting on the development of children. From the beginning we aimed to work collaboratively with our partners.

What difference did we want to make?

• Parents have increased knowledge, skills, understanding, confidence and resilience – so that they are empowered to support their child’s development.

• Parent/child relationship strengthened, creating a strong foundation for a lifelong relationship. 

• Parents are aspirational for their children and themselves.

• Children are ready to start school. 

• Improved outcomes for all children and a reduction in the inequality gap for the most disadvantages.

Service level indicators: 

• focus group with parents, Parent pre- and post- course evaluations, case studies, Age 3 measure, tracking individual children’s progress through school, Population level indicators (local Children’s Centre area and Kirklees wide), EYFS profile scores attainment gap (NI 92), EYFS profile scores (NI 72), additional health indicators to be developed, including childhood obesity, child mental health, dental decay etc.

• Multi-agency workforce able to support families with key child development messages.

• Service level indicators: Pre and post component training feedback, follow-up training questionnaires, number of workers accessing training and range of services/agencies.

What was our idea?

Our idea was to create a framework based around The Child’s Journey that would highlight key messages and a range of activities that would offer a continuum of support for families in line with current research and the Children’s Centre core offer. Central to The Child’s Journey is the engagement of both the children and their parents.

We started with a flow chart and identified four key areas of development that we believed were crucial to all children. These have been consistent since that initial idea in 2006. These four components together impact on and support all child development. They are:

• The need for children and parents to develop and maintain good attachment behaviour.
• The importance of parents responding to and supporting their child’s earliest communication and developing language skills.
• The essential part that developmental movement plays in supporting children’s ability to learn.
• The central role that play has in developing children’s knowledge, skills and dispositions.

We wanted to ensure that the multi-agency professional workforce supporting parents were knowledgeable and informed in the four components to ensure parents received consistent key messages regardless of the service with which they were involved.

The practice

We developed a flow chart which was a continuum from the ante-natal stage through to when children enter maintained education based on the four components of The Child’s Journey framework. We shared the concept with Sure Start Locality Managers, Head Teachers, Midwives, Health Visitors, Psychologists, Social Workers and others, all of whom could see the potential of working in this way.

We trialled the component training in the March of 2007 in Batley, using local and national professionals. At this time, we trained 240 multi-professional people across the four components. The feedback from this was incredibly positive.

During the period 2008 to the end of 2009, we developed a Training the Trainers programme and 224 multi-agency professionals were trained in one or more of the components so that they were able to deliver training about the key components to practitioners and colleagues in their respective teams. 

From early 2010, a rolling programme of training has been delivered in house by The Child’s Journey team. To date, 1,514 multi-professional practitioners have been trained across the four components and each has received an accompanying toolkit. Eight trainers regularly facilitate the training to groups of multi-agency professional practitioners. 

A series of eight activities for parents have also been written, under the four component headings for delivery in Children’s Centres. These activities were trialed and adapted as they were delivered. By the end of 2009, this number had increased to 15 activities which offered a continuum of experience and information for parents and children up to the age of 4 years.
The Child’s Journey provides a framework that can help ALL parents to support their child’s development. It is a comprehensive framework that is able to provide different levels of support across the four key areas that underpin all child development.

The Children’s Centre staff teams, along with a wide range of other multi-agency professional staff and volunteers from across 25 services within Kirklees, have all been trained. They now cascade The Child’s Journey key messages from the four components in a variety of ways throughout their contact with families: 

• The DVD and Parents’ Booklet (essential development information about the 4 components for families; the DVD is translated is available in different languages).
• The Child’s Journey Toolkits (pocket-sized aide memoirs for workers).
• Ten web-based films (demonstrates 10 of the Child’s Journey activities).
• The Child’s Journey Activities (designed for children and parents to experience together).
• The Child’s Journey component bags (these are materials based around the 4 components, designed to be used with the most vulnerable families in their own homes).
• Targeted activity to wider population groups through schools (particular schools targeted in the priority area, using a small grant). All children registered to attend nursery in these schools have the opportunity to engage in activities.

Further information on these resources can be obtained from the C4EO team.

Evidence and evaluation - making a difference to children, young people and families

Population performance measure

NI 72 - Achievement of at least 78 points across the Early Years Foundation Stage 
NI 92 – Narrowing the gap between the lowest achieving 20% in the Early Years Foundation Stage Profile and the rest.

A Performance and Data Manager leads an experienced team of Monitoring and Evaluation Officers who support the delivery of the performance management framework and the evaluation of Children’s Centre activity. The team has training and experience in research and evaluation methodologies and the team includes a specific research officer post. The team has supported the development of The Child’s Journey evaluation tools, the on-going monitoring of The Child’s Journey delivery and impact and has collated and analysed the subsequent data. There has been additional support through links and discussions with The University of Sheffield School of Education and University of Edinburgh School of Education.

Batley East Children’s Centre

Batley East Children’s Centre was the first centre in Kirklees to trial The Child’s Journey activities. Families have therefore been accessing The Child’s Journey activities and the key messages from the multi-professionals who support them since early 2007. Field Lane Junior, Infant and Nursery School has worked very closely with Batley East Children’s Centre to promote participation in the Child’s Journey activities, including partnership delivery of the Let’s Talk 3, Lets Move 3 and Lets Play 3 activities. 
The school’s most recent EYFS results (2010/2011) indicate tangible benefits for children and show a strong correlation between attainment at EYFS and access to The Child’s Journey activities. For those children whose parents accessed these activities prior to their children commencing school, 63% achieved 78 points, including 6+ in Communication, Language and literacy Development (CLLD) and Personal, Social and Emotional Development (PSED), this compares to 50% for families accessing children’s centre activities but not including The Child’s Journey targeted activities and to 25% for children and families who accessed neither. The average points scored by children whose families had accessed The Child’s Journey activities are also significantly higher. This evidence is based on the full cohort of 28 children in the reception class at Field Lane Junior Infant and Nursery School September 2010 – July 2011. Of the children in the class, 14 achieved National Indicator 72 (78 points in the EYFS including 6+ points in PSED & CLLD). The children in this cohort were babies when we started delivering The Child’s Journey framework. 

Further information is available from the case studies Kirklees have written up as well as results from their focus groups, and these can be obtained by contacting the C4EO team.

Kirklees trends

The trend in Kirklees is for an increasing proportion of children to achieve well in the EYFS. The proportion of children achieving at least 78 points across the EYFS and scoring 6 or more in personal, social and emotional development and communication, language and literacy development (NI 72) is now consistently above the average for England. 

The Child’s Journey activities – evidence of impact on families 

For every Child’s Journey activity delivered in a Kirklees Children’s Centre or other community venue, parents are asked to complete a questionnaire first at the beginning and then at the end of the five week course of the activity. This questionnaire asks them to score their knowledge, skills, attitude and/or behavior, where 1 represents least confident/knowledgeable and 5 most confident and knowledgeable.

Data collected from pre- and post- scores provides clear evidence of the distance parents travelled between the start and finish of the Child’s Journey activities. All 100% of parent evaluations show positive impact: 5,699 parents and children attended The Child’s Journey activities on 22,409 occasions between January 2011 and December 2011. Encouragingly, further evidence of progress is now also emerging as families are traced 3 months following completion of activities – parents report that they are using the learning gained during the activities and putting it into practice in the home.

The Child’s Journey supporting children and parents together – school pilots

This project involved a partnership between children’s centres and schools to deliver The Child’s Journey activities to parents and children in the spring and summer terms before the children enter maintained nursery classes in the autumn. An Age 3 Child Development Measure has been used to identify levels of child development for entry cohorts of children. This has been used to plan support and to measure the impact of the project year on year. 

Of all the children who took part in the pilot from January 2011, none presented (with unidentified delay or disorder) at entry to maintained nursery in September 2011. This is a significantly different picture from the previous year’s September 2010 intake when 67% of children presented with unidentified delay or disorder.

Six schools participated in the 2011 pilot and 5 have so far made full quantitative and qualitative data returns, reporting that children are much more confident and interested in exploring the whole nursery environment. All schools have reported a vast improvement in the numbers of children presenting at nursery with improved independence particularly around self toileting. The schools report that transition has been much more successful across the 6 schools for the September 2011 intake.

Further detailed data showing Kirklees’ results in comparison with its statistical neighbours is also available along with positive testimonies from staff and parents as well as Ofsted is also available by contacting the C4EO team.

Sustaining and replicating your practice

Practice will be sustained through the following mechanisms:

• There is a multi-agency commitment to the delivery of The Child’s Journey in Kirklees. The Child’s Journey framework has been aligned with the Kirklees Parenting Strategy, the Family and Adult education strategy and will be embedded in the new Early Intervention and Family Support Strategy. It has also been written into the specification for the delivery of the Healthy Child Programme. 
• Initial investment in developing The Child’s Journey framework and resources was provided by the Children’s Centre element of the Sure Start Grant. As the initial investment in development has been made it will significantly reduce future development costs.
• The Child’s Journey can be delivered by the existing multi-agency workforce including Children’s Centre staff, Midwifery, Health Visiting and Teaching Assistants.
• A multi-agency workforce has been trained which will ensure that the Child’s Journey programme and the key messages continue to be delivered to families. 
• Training for the multi-professional practitioners in the four components is delivered by established Children’s Centre officers through the Local Authority Learning Management System. With large numbers of staff already trained, the training programme, will in the future, move to a maintenance programme for updating and inducting new employees.
• There is a marketing strategy for The Child’s Journey. Packages of resources and training have been sold to other local authorities and organisations, thus generating income.
• Procurement processes enable us to access best value around reprographics. 
• Schools are delivering The Child’s Journey framework from within their existing staffing budgets, including through pupil premium funding. 
• Opportunities to deliver The Child’s Journey parenting activities through Adult Learning providers is being investigated with the Kirklees Adult Learning Service with a number of providers willing to deliver. Options for the accreditation of the training is to be simultaneously progressed.
• An in-house local authority monitoring and evaluation team has provided robust support for the evaluation of this framework and its impact. The investment in this in-house service and the establishment of comprehensive tools and processes for on-going evaluation will secure the continuation of monitoring and evaluation of The Child’s Journey.


Kirklees has provided the unit costs per Child’s Journey activity per family (parent and child) and these can be obtained by contacting the C4EO team.

Component multi-professional training costs

From January 2011 to March 2012, a total of 97 component training days have been delivered or are planned to be delivered:

• Attachment component – 21 training days
• Communication and language component – 24 training days
• Developmental movement component – 23 training days
• Play component – 29 training days.

Unit costs per participant have been calculated based on total costs for venue, resources, staffing, administration and management divided by the maximum number of participants. 

• Attachment component training day - £4.46 per participant
• Communication and language component training day - £4.19 per participant
• Developmental movement component training day - £4.19 per participant
• Play component training day - £4.34 per participant.

The full break down of the unit costs per participant for the component training is available by contacting the C4EO team

New developments

• Kirklees is currently piloting a partnership in delivering The Child’s Journey messages and activities to parents through two voluntary pre-school settings. This also includes working collaboratively with the local schools.
• Children’s Centre frontline staff are working jointly with Health Visitors to hold a termly activity day for 2 year olds and their parents. 

The Child’s Journey Babysitting course is a 10 week programme where the facilitator works in partnership with high schools to support and develop young peoples’ skills and understanding in a wide range of topics from child development through to personal safety. 

Further detailed information on costs benefits and further replication is also available via the C4EO team.

Barriers to implementation

Barriers identified by Kirklees in developing The Child’s Journey framework were:
• Supporting colleagues from another service area within the authority to understand that The Child’s Journey was different to The Early Years Foundation Stage as it was about supporting parents and not a curriculum for children.Solution – was to invite key officers from these services onto The Child’s Journey steering group, offer multi-agency professional component training for practitioners within this service. This supported integrated planning within Children’s Centres and partnership working with schools.
• Professionals needed to appreciate that something this simple could have such wide reaching improvements on outcomes. Solution - from the outset we built the multi-professional training and presentations into the framework to highlight the importance of the four components in young children’s development and learning. We built in to the delivery of The Child’s Journey impact evaluation tools and identified key national indicator data which will evidence long term impact. The Child’s Journey has a clear referenced academic evidence base and has been endorsed by experts in their fields. Ongoing dialogue at service level (Paediatrician, CAMHS, SALT, Psychological service, Children’s Social Care, Midwifery, Health Visiting, Education) has led to locally based integrated planning. At a strategic level, The Child’s Journey is being embedded into integrated service planning via The Child Health promotion programme and Health Visitor and Midwifery development programmes.
• Retaining the focus of the value of The Child’s Journey framework as a model that supports social mobility, parental and cultural change so that it is not lost in a time of service redesign and conflicting budgetary priorities. Solution – raised the profile of the impact evidence collected at a senior level within the organisation and gained support for scoping a business model; worked in partnership with colleagues in Adult and Family Learning services in public and private sector to secure future sustained delivery through a commissioned model. The Child’s Journey has been contextualised in key government and research policy documents i.e. Field (2010), Allen (2010), Marmot and Tickell (2011).
• Identifying families who will benefit from more intensive support and ensuring that parents have access to a differentiated service responsive to individual need. Solution – built good partnership working with key local services including midwifery, health visiting, schools, social care and psychological services to enable appropriate and timely access and support for families.

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