Blackpool leads the way with new child development centre


Blackpool's new Centre for Early Child Development combines expert knowledge and practice to improve children's lives in their first three years.

World leaders in early development gathered in Blackpool to launch an innovative early intervention programme this week.

Blackpool Better Start was awarded £45m and aims to combine grassroots and worldwide expertise to create better outcomes for Blackpool’s vulnerable children.

This expert knowledge has been pooled through the new Blackpool Centre for Early Child Development to create bespoke preventative approaches in pregnancy and the first three years.

Blackpool is one of five areas in England awarded lottery funding to improve theoutcomes of children from birth to three.

The others sharing the funding are are Bradford, Lambeth, Nottingham and Southend-on-Sea.

The NSPCC-led partnership includes the local authority, health services, police and community, and has formed close ties with leading researchers around the world.

The opening conference on Tuesday (20 October) was attended by more than 400 people, including nursery workers, social workers, doctors, midwives, health visitors, teachers and parents.

Local practitioners went for free and are also able to access ‘Twilight’ evening learning sessions and webinars throughout October and November.

Services are targeted in Blackpool’s most challenged communities and include reading programmes, healthy eating campaigns, and nine children’s centres running free interactive sessions. One is the Brain Game, which aims to grow parents' understanding of early brain development in young children and the ‘serve and return’ concept.

Merle Davis, director for the Centre of Early Child Development, told Nursery World, 'We’re one of five areas in the country that got Big Lottery funding to transform services for young children and their parents.

'Better Start is the blueprint for regeneration of the town and this is drawn from an expert advisory group – the key movers and shakers in the world of early child development – as well as our own local research.

'The expert advisory group includes the Alberta Family Wellness Foundation in Canada, the Harvard Centre for the Developing Child in the US, and Griffiths University in Australia.

'We’re working very closely with universities to develop our interventions, as has the NSPCC nationally. Out of these partnerships have come many of our individual projects like Baby Steps, SafeCare, and our Core Story. We’re looking at what works around the world, what are the similarities with Blackpool and how does it compare to our local research. It’s about trialling new solutions.”

'Nurseries and childminders are invited to all the training and can play a key role in engaging parents. We want to co-design services in the future with parents and community,' she added.

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