Headlines: December 12th, 2008

Children in Scotland, the national agency for voluntary, statutory and professional organisations has called on the UK and Scottish Governments to invest more in a universal system of early years services and family support. The call comes after a damming report from UNICEF which shows the UK lagging behind other countries.

The message from the UNICEF report is that governmental policy, practice and investment do matter in giving babies and young children the best possible chance of experiencing happy, healthy childhoods. Trying to make up later for what was missing early in children’s lives has proven to be much less effective and much more expensive in all countries studies. The report makes it clear that there is today no convincing reason for spending less on early childhood education and care than on schools and teachers for older children.

The UNICEF league table indicates that the UK meets only five of the ten early years benchmarks. The only OECD countries that meet eight or more of the benchmarks are Sweden, Iceland, Denmark, Finland, France and Norway.

Extensive research has confirmed the common sense wisdom that what happens, or fails to happen, during the first years of life strongly shape child well-being, later educational success and adult life chances. Neuroscience is beginning to explain why loving, stable, secure, stimulating and rewarding relationships with family and caregivers in the earliest months and years of life are critical for almost all aspects of a child’s development.