UK parents entrust schools with mental health of their early years kids

early years holistic activities state of the nation 2020

In a commissioned report which, in its whole, boldly addresses and asks the questions no-one wants to talk about: The Royal Foundation of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, with Ipsos Mori, have together released a commissioned report which explores the ‘unspoken’ of parenthood in the early years. (Early years covers children aged 0-5.)

The extensive report proves to be highly interesting reading – particularly in the context of an era-shifting global pandemic. One of the standout insights which inherently deserves wider discourse, is the topic of parental loneliness.

According the The Royal Foundation’s CEO, Jason Knauf, this loneliness almost doubled. He said: parental loneliness has rocketed from 38% to 63% and the percentage of those who feel
uncomfortable asking for help has doubled.”

This finding had worse implications for poorer and disadvantaged households. Jason continued: “Most concerningly, this impact has been greatest on those living the hardest lives, with
responses from those in deprived areas consistently showing higher levels of
loneliness and less likely to have experienced an increase in community support.”

In keeping with the themes of community, and peer and financial support (which are both elements of life that we sanctify for survival but can’t always define easily – which is precisely what makes it so crucial to understand and nurture positively); the study also unearthed the belief and the trust that parents place into educational establishments in supporting the mental health of their youngest children.



Many parents also viewed schools (53%) and nurseries (37%) as playing a role in
children’s health and happiness. In our conversations with parents, it was suggested
that schools and nurseries were able to provide experiences that the parent would not
be able to provide themselves.

Report: STATE OF THE NATION: UNDERSTANDING PUBLIC ATTITUDES TO THE EARLY YEARS
by The Royal Foundation of The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, with Ipsos Mori and the support of Kindred2

This might be a concern to many early years trusts and providers whose resources are already stretched, however it does well to note “the importance of diverse activities” – which do not have to be tech-centric or beholden to a grading scheme; and instead opens up a pathway into creative endeavours that can both support development and improve the mental health of early years children.

In addition, some of the technologies posited as ‘accelerants’ for learning and development – such as Virtual Reality and Augmented reality – still have not seen thorough research done in terms of their efficacy and potential developmental risks for those aged 0-5. For example, we already know that children aged between 8 and 12 should not be in a Virtual Reality environment for longer than 20 minutes.


From a practical perspective, parents discussed the
importance of diverse activities, including ‘messy play’, some of which would be
challenging and time-consuming to recreate at home. Parents also saw merit in their
child socialising within large groups of children.

Report: STATE OF THE NATION: UNDERSTANDING PUBLIC ATTITUDES TO THE EARLY YEARS
by The Royal Foundation of The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, with Ipsos Mori and the support of Kindred2

Therefore it could well be a tonic to discover that the tech-obsessed tools and toys that increasingly dominate the learning journey further along in the schooling system (post 5 years) don’t really apply to what parents actually want for their early years children.

Providing real life, earthy context of how parents feel, and how the public feels about the early years

The report is incredibly impressive and deserved a fuller read from the education, training and learning sector – both in terms of its scale of survey (over half a million correspondents) and the depth of its qualitative findings which can provide a person-centred perspective on younger pupils and students.

For example, the ‘one-step-removed’ sentiment from parents looks to be echoed for a huge range of families, and helps to add a universalism to the idea of “it’s so much worse if my auntie tells me off than my Mum” i.e. – we should look to extended family first wherever possible, to support parenting within the core nucleus of a family unit.

Parents felt that extended family played an
important role in providing their child with discipline and supporting them emotionally. In
this sense, it was felt that input from extended family complemented rather than
duplicated the role of parents. For example, it was suggested that children might feel
more comfortable confiding in extended family members than in their parents, and that
discipline from extended family members could carry more weight than that from
parents.

Report: STATE OF THE NATION: UNDERSTANDING PUBLIC ATTITUDES TO THE EARLY YEARS
by The Royal Foundation of The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, with Ipsos Mori and the support of Kindred2

You can find more information and the #5biginsights insights from this report led by The Duchess of Cambridge on The Royal Foundation’s official website.

state of the nation the royal foundation early years early years

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