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.

Areas for discussion include:

  • how the commissioning and coordination of health services for children in the early stages of life can be improved,
  • the impact of government measures to support children from disadvantaged families in the early years, and
  • priorities and approaches to the development of early child literacy and communication skills.

It takes place against the backdrop of key policy developments, including:

Speakers and case studies

There will be keynote contributions from:

  • 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.

Sessions with speakers sharing particular areas of experience include:

  • Nutrition - in the early years of a child’s life with an outline of latest thinking - with Dr Helen Crawley, First Steps Nutrition Trust;
  • Reducing health inequalities  - including working 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.

Further confirmed speakers include: Dr Claudine Bowyer-Crane, University of York; Jonathan Douglas, National Literacy Trust and Zoe Sargent, Central and North West London NHS Foundation Trust.

The agenda

  • Priorities for supporting early child development - funding, coordination, and collaboration;
  • Developing a coordinated approach to improving health in early years - reducing inequality, increasing engagement with health checks, and priorities for the sector and government;
  • Evaluating the impact of the free childcare entitlement - access and awareness;
  • Tackling challenges for improving childcare and early education  - the Hungry Little Minds campaign, early literacy and communication skills, and supporting parental engagement;
  • Next steps for child development policy.

Engagement with policy officials at this conference

Westminster Higher Education Forum conferences typically attract strong interest from policymakers. This seminar will be an opportunity for stakeholders to engage with officials who have reserved places representing: Ofsted; the Department for Health and Social Care; and the Government Legal Department.

Keynote Speakers

Fionnuala O'Reilly

Senior Advisor, The Behavioural Insights Team

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


Tim Loughton MP


Sally Carlton

Centre Practitioner, South Acton Children’s Centre & Nursery

Zoe Sargent

Associate Director, Children’s Services, Central and North West London NHS Foundation Trust

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