This means that other sectors such as social services and education have become increasingly important. For an efficient and effective service to be offered, a multi-agency approach is now required.
This emphasis on establishing links between different agencies and professionals working with children and young people has become a major focus for the planning and delivery of services for children and their families, in an effort to support children in meeting the Every Child Matters outcomes. The Early Years Foundation Stage clearly identifies the need for practitioners to develop and continuously improve their 'work with other professionals within and beyond the setting'.
The death of Victoria Climbie in 2000 is a tragic example of what can happen when services do not work together. It led to the most comprehensive review of services for children and young people ever undertaken in England. In 2003, the Government launched the Every Child Matters Green Paper and children and young people were asked what they wanted out of life.
The Government admitted that one thing it needed to put right was that 'professionals like teachers, social workers, health workers and the police need to talk to each other about children who they think may be abused ... to ensure other children aren't failed by the system in the way that Victoria was.'
The health promotion project for pre-schools in Harrow, London, 'Healthy Children Are Better Learners', is a prime example of a collaborative project that involves voluntary and private childcare providers, parents, a college of further education, the local authority and the Primary Care Trust. Health promotion work in pre-schools within the borough had previously been carried out on an ad-hoc basis by staff as part of their curriculum development work. This was the first time that an action research project was offered in the early years to encourage practitioners to question how 'healthy' their setting was.
The project emphasised self-evaluation and understanding health promotion and partnership working. Training and support sessions used the expertise of a community dietician, three doctors from Northwick Park Hospital in Harrow and the clinical co-ordinator of the health visiting service.
As part of the project, staff at Christchurch Kindergarten in Harrow had a visit from their local health visitor, who recorded the children's height and weight, with the consent of parents. A questionnaire was also sent to parents asking about food and nutrition in the home to promote healthy eating and lifestyles. The nursery linked the questionnaire findings and health visitor documentation into their curriculum planning. Staff introduced topics such as How Do We Grow? - looking at how plants grow and the importance of healthy eating, drinking water, sleep and physical exercise.
Local police officers also made a community visit, and the children had fun being finger-printed, comparing and discussing their fingerprints and seeing how everybody's are different.
Working in partnership with so many different organisations and professionals certainly improved the planning, delivery and participation of everyone involved in the project, highlighting the benefits of strong and supportive links that contribute to the achievement of the five outcomes for children and their families within the early years community in Harrow.
Cath Alderson is early years advisory teacher for Harrow Early Years Childcare and Parenting Services. Gill Roberts is curriculum leader for Harrow Access and Inclusion Division People First. Alison Tonkin is NVQ manager for early years care and education at Stanmore College.
- World Health Organisation (1986), cited in Bruce, T. and Meggitt, C. (1996) Child Care and Education. Hodder & Stoughton, London
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