Westminster Education Forum

Priorities for supporting child development - improving children’s wellbeing, literacy and communication skills and engaging with disadvantaged families

Morning, Tuesday, 21st April 2020

Central London


This conference will examine priorities and next steps for supporting for child development in the first years of life.

Delegates will look at:

  • Future funding arrangements and coordination of health services for children in the early stages of life,
  • The provision of free early education and childcare and ensuring it is accessed by disadvantaged families, and
  • The development of literacy and communication skills in the early years.

The seminar will be an opportunity to discuss key policy developments including:

Keynote contributions and case studies


  • Professor Viv Bennett, Director, Nursing, Public Health England - on the coordination of health services to support early child development; and
  • Mark Parrett, Audit Manager, National Audit Office - on the ongoing NAO study investigating the support available from the DfE to disadvantaged families to ensure that they access free early education and childcare entitlements.

Sessions with speakers sharing particular areas of experience include:

  • The importance of nutrition in the early years of a child’s life - an outline of latest thinking from Dr Helen Crowley, First Steps Nutrition Trust;
  • Approaches to supporting parental engagement and the role of parents in the early years - with Sally Hogg, Parent-Infant Foundation;
  • The role of health visits - including funding and coordination to improve the early stages of child development, as well as increasing engagement - with Alison Morton, Institute of Health Visiting; and
  • The Tiny Happy People programme, due to be  in early 2020 and designed to encourage communication skills and support parents in greater interaction with their children - with a senior speaker confirmed from the BBC.

The agenda

  • Priorities for supporting early child development - funding, coordination and collaboration;
  • Developing a coordinated approach to improving health in the early stages of a child’s life - reducing inequality, increasing engagement with health checks and assessing the future priorities for the sector and Government;
  • Evaluating the impact of the free childcare entitlement - access and awareness;
  • Challenges in improving childcare and early education and the role of the DfE’s Hungry Little Minds campaign - developing early literacy and communication skills and supporting parental engagement; and
  • Next steps for child development policy.

Keynote Speaker

Professor Viv Bennett

Director, Nursing, Public Health England

Keynote Speakers

Mark Parrett

Audit Manager, National Audit Office

Professor Viv Bennett

Director, Nursing, Public Health England


Jonathan Douglas

Chief Executive, National Literacy Trust

Dr Claudine Bowyer-Crane

Senior Lecturer, Psychology in Education Research Centre, Department of Education, University of York

Sally Hogg

Head of Policy and Campaigning, Parent-Infant Foundation

Alice Webb

Director, Children's and Education, BBC

Dr Helen Crawley

Director, First Steps Nutrition Trust

Alison Morton

Director of Policy and Quality, Institute of Health Visiting