New learning network for improving children and babies’ mental health launched for early years practitioners

A new resource aimed at helping early years workers improve the mental health and development of the babies and children in their care has been developed by mental health experts at the Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families.

Early Years in Mind is a free online learning network for early years practitioners which provides easy-to-read guidance on supporting the mental health of babies, young children and their families.
The network aims to:

  • Share learning and practical advice on how to use attachment-informed practice, and
  • Connect practitioners interested in the mental health in the early years.

It will be targeted at early years workers from across the sector - from nursery and childcare workers, to local authority and NHS staff who are working in a range of health, community and family settings.

Camilla Rosan, head of the early years programme at the Anna Freud Centre said, ‘Babies and children come with a range of different experiences, challenges and mental health needs. Early years in Mind will offer easy to follow advice on how to support children’s mental health needs generally, and also their social and emotional development. But it will also offer tools and strategies on how they can approach some of the more specific needs and circumstances that are currently encountered by many families.

She added, ‘We feel there’s a real need for this learning network. The early years are the most important in terms of a child’s development, but in terms of mental health, this area receives a pretty low level of attention and investment.’

As it develops Early Years in Mind will provide free training modules and learning resources for early years workers, along with evidence-based information provided by experts in the early years field.
The network will also offer early years workers guidance relating to the following:

  • Supporting parents and carers with their relationship with their babies/infants
  • Supporting vulnerable families
  • Support the wellbeing of early years staff
  • Managing and supporting young children with a range of specific needs
  • Providing key services - such as attachment-informed play-and-stay groups and baby clinics

Camilla Rosan added, ‘A child’s early experiences can impact on how their brain forms and how they develop into adulthood. Therefore, it’s important for their needs to be attended to early on. Early years workers can help with this. With this learning network we want to support the early years workforce and offer them new skills and tools to help them improve the mental health of under-fives across the board.’

The project, funded by the Sylvia Adams Charitable Trust and Department of Health & Social Care VCSE Health and Wellbeing Fund, is part of the Centre’s wider plan to create wide-scale, sustainable change and support preventative work with infants and families.

Early years workers can
sign up to the Early Years in Mind network.


This week the DfE has also launched some new online resources for school to boost mental health support in response to the coronavirus.

As more pupils return to the classroom as part of the Government’s phased approach to the wider opening of schools, the Department for Education has announced grants worth more than £750,000 for the Diana Award, the Anti-Bullying Alliance and the Anne Frank Trust - to help hundreds of schools and colleges build relationships between pupils, boost their resilience, and continue to tackle bullying both in person and online.

It adds to the support the Government has already put in place to help families and children during the pandemic, with more than £9 million already being invested in mental health charities to help them expand and reach those most in need, and priority given to it within planning guides for a phased return to education.

Children and Families Minister Vicky Ford said, ‘There has never been a more important time to speak about mental health and wellbeing – especially for thousands of children, young people and teachers who are adapting to education and different ways of living and learning in these unprecedented times.

Schools and colleges are often a safe haven for children and young people, but the challenges we face at this time mean we are all more likely to feel anxious or sad – no matter our age or circumstances.

These new resources, created with charities and health experts, will encourage confident conversations between friends, colleagues, pupils and their teachers, and improve our understanding of how to make ourselves and others feel better.’

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