Westminster Education Forum

Child development in the first years of life - parental support and engagement, coordinating health and education provision, and priorities for policy

Morning, Tuesday, 21st April 2020

Central London


This conference focuses on policy priorities for supporting child development in the first years of life - including health and wellbeing, early communication skills, and parental engagement - and will bring out case studies in innovative practice.

The agenda looks at:

  • Funding - future arrangements and coordination of health services for children in the early stages of life;
  • Access - the provision of free early education and childcare and ensuring it is accessed by disadvantaged families; and
  • Skills development  - literacy and communication in the early years.

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

Keynote contributions


  • Professor Viv Bennett, Director, Nursing, Public Health England - on the coordination of health services to support early child development;
  • 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; alongside
  • Professor Eva Lloyd, Professor of Early Childhood, University of East London, on her research on the intersection between early years policy and child poverty strategies.

Case studies

Sessions with speakers sharing particular areas of experience include:

  • Nutrition in the early years of a child’s life: an outline of latest thinking - with Dr Helen Crawley, First Steps Nutrition Trust;
  • Reducing health inequalities by working together with communities, localities and engaging hard-to-reach families - with Kim Roberts, HENRY;
  • Engagement with parents, and supporting their role in the early years - with Sally Hogg, Parent-Infant Foundation;
  • Health visits - coordination, funding, and the impact on improving the early stages of child development - with Alison Morton, Institute of Health Visiting; and
  • The Tiny Happy People programme, and encouraging communication skills and supporting parents in greater interaction with their children - with Alice Webb, Director, Children's and Education, 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

Professor Eva Lloyd

Professor of Early Childhood, Cass School of Education and Communities, University of East London and Director, International Centre for the Study of the Mixed Economy of Childcare (ICMEC)

Mark Parrett

Audit Manager, National Audit Office

Professor Viv Bennett

Director, Nursing, Public Health England


Tim Loughton MP


Kim Roberts

Chief Executive, HENRY

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