The Cambridge Model Initiative has been designed to support the prevention of childhood obesity by creating a nursery environment that enables children to eat well and be active. It was developed by early years leader Linda Baston-Pitt and paediatric public health dietitian Faye Bentley, who founded the Cambridge Childhood Partnership CIC.
Central to the project is a new Level 4 qualification, developed with CACHE, and specialist role of the physical activity and nutrition co-ordinator (PANCo), aimed at putting child well-being at the centre of practice. Training and continuing professional development are provided for those taking on the PANCo role, and a best practice framework uses evidence-based resources, national guidelines and role-modelling of positive lifestyle behaviours.
The PANCo course enables early years practitioners to develop reflective practice skills and personal confidence as an agent of change, and to develop and apply their knowledge of behaviour change and support strategies within their own settings. PANCos implement comprehensive nutrition and physical activity policies and practices that support children and families to be healthy and encourage staff to role-model positive behaviours.
The role is supported by the PANCo in Practice Quality Standards and membership of the national online PANCo Network to share best practice. Since the PANCo role launched two years ago, 1,700 PANCos have qualified and 90 colleges now deliver the programme. The initiative combines not only a qualification, but also a new role and career path, in a sustainable model that puts the power back into the hands of practitioners.
The project’s goal is to champion and shape the future health and well-being agenda at local and national level, and it is working with the DfE, the DoH and the All-Party Parliamentary Group. It now wants to reach even more people and promote this dynamism across the sector and beyond.
Nursery managers and early years professionals gave many examples of changes they had made as a result of the PANCo training, including introducing dance and yoga workshops for staff who then increased the physical activity they delivered to the children; developing the outdoor area to provide more risk and challenge and natural resources; doing a dietitian referral for a child who needed support; and making holistic menus including breakfast and snacks to balance children’s diets across the day.
One nursery manager says, ‘We have now created a nursery health and well-being policy, and without question the biggest impetus was Emma completing the PANCo course. The parents now appear to trust us more, and we are better able to support them.’
And one nursery PANCo explains, ‘It has allowed me to keep abreast of the latest research and good practice. As a team, we regularly have walking lunches and staff are eating healthier lunchtime meals. They are happier and more engaged, and have enthusiastically taken part in well-being initiatives.’
"Disseminating good practice right to the practitioner, promoting a healthy lifestyle at grassroots level" — judge
Dandelion Education, Paws for Breath, Norfolk
The Early Years Nutrition Partnership
Open to early years settings, services and projects that have worked to improve the physical health and/or emotional well-being of children, families and staff.