Seizing the day to improve the nurture of our youngest children – in celebration of the 25th anniversary of UNCRC   3 comments

When I found out about this 1001 Critical Days and Foundation Years  joint information and research seminar, I was very excited and decided despite the short notice that I would try to attend mainly because I had very recently revisited this document, after attending the Early Education seminar and listening to the excellent presentation by Professor Chris Pascal and Professor Tony Bertram .

Amazingly everything fell into place and arrangements were put into place for my childminded children and my foster child. So on Thursday 20th November, early in the morning I was on my way to London, as the event was being held in the Boothroyd Room, House of Commons (actually in the modern bit called Portcullis House).

As I was to get into London very early, I had arranged to meet a friend, that I do not see that often for coffee, and we had a lovely catch up and some discussion around things that concern us both.

By lunch time I had navigated my way across London and despite the cold stood on the bank of the Thames, near the London Eye, eating my lunch. I then made my way to Portcullis House – I was a bit nervous as the last time I visited this building my bag ‘failed’ the security check – but no problems this time – my bag ‘passed’.

I was directed upstairs and sat waiting for one of my Save Childhood Movement colleagues – Marie from ‘Mother’s at Home Matter’. Marie arrived shortly after me and introduced me to her colleagues, we chatted for a while and were joined by others – including Penelope Leach. I had met Penelope Leach once before – at another conference – and not surprisingly she did not remember. However we all chatted until it was time to go into the large room.

It was set up in a similar fashion to the rooms in the House of Commons with rows of chairs at the back, and chairs at tables with mikes in front of them in a horseshoe shape at the front. I took a seat in one of the first rows of the seats at the back – as did Marie and her colleagues.

I noticed a few faces that I recognised but also many that I didn’t (turns out that was a good reason for this – many of them were from health professions)

We were all given a huge plastic bag containing our ‘pack’ – I stuffed mine in my bag – as pointless me trying to read and listen – or listen and note take; however I have of course since opened the pack and can you it contained a thick book called ‘Growing Up in the UK – Ensuring a healthy future for our children’  The date on it is May 2013, but I admit I had not seen or read it – maybe because it is produced by the BMA Board of Science. Anyway I have still not read it, or even dipped into it – I did open it and could see the writing was very small, that there are lots of graphs and research and recommendations – so not really my sort of bedtime reading – but I know I will dip in to it over the next few weeks just to get an overview – so I will know what it is about, and therefore when to refer to it, either as part of my university course or my campaigning.

The pack also contained Penelope Leach’s document ‘Babies are people – All people have rights, so what about babies rights?’ I have skim read this document – I do not agree with everything that she says / writes (in this document or elsewhere) – but this document  is mainly in line with many of my thoughts about the rights of babies and their parents to be the best people to protect their babies rights. However it also raises a lot of questions – and in fact these questions are within the actual text – things like ‘Do all parents have enough knowledge of child development to decide what is best for their baby?’ and ‘Do parents have the right to do what they like with their baby – without reference to the baby?’ (Which I take to mean not responding to what the baby is telling them through cries and body language). I will be returning to this document as I think will be useful in many areas of my professional life and to my CPD, and will raise questions that I will need to reflect on, and decide if I agree or not.

Another document in the pack was a document from the University of Northampton  School of Education, called ‘Transforming Lives + Inspiring Change’ – which really is a ‘sales brochure’ for the university – and so how their training of future educators will transform lives and inspire change. I do understand why this particular document was included – as they were mentioned a couple of times and there are links between some of the speakers and the university. However, I wonder what the relevance was in including it in the pack – considering those attending?

There were a few leaflets promoting forthcoming events – oh to have the time and financial means to attend them all.

And there was a booklet about the 1001 Critical Days manifesto – which was interesting as it is cross party and has the backing of many organisations. I had of course already printed this and looked at it before going to the seminar. If you have not read it yet here is the link -

But that is not all that was in the pack – there was a copy of the UNCRC – useful to have, and some information about PIPUK – which stands for Parent Infant Partnership – United Kingdom. If you want to know more click on the link

Link to PIPUK website

Another leaflet was about Best beginning – I admit not known to me – if not known to you take a look at their website

HERE for the LINK for Best Beginnings

I have only had a quick look but notice there is a lot of information – including some for professionals. I will go back and have a more in-depth look later

And that more or less is the end of the details about the contents of the pack given out.

Please note that this is personal recall without the aid of written notes or handouts from presentations

We were expecting Frank Field  to do the introduction, but he was delayed on other matters – so instead Tim Loughton MP did them- telling how exciting it was for us all – not only because of the excellent speakers lined up, but also because of the cross party support and the cross professional support and attendance with health and education starting to come together, to express concerns and to work on solutions – all with the aim of improving outcome and increasing opportunities for children – covering the 1001 critical days – from conception to two years of age.

Our first speaker was Dame Tessa Dowell MP –  I knew her name and had signed petitions about children’s rights and putting child development at the heart of post 2015 policies not just in this country but in other countries. The petition is now closed, and was a success as this is now being discussed within the UN.

Dame Jowell spoke with passion and determination, she spoke about Sure Start centres, in which she had played a major role in setting up. She spoke about the  role they had in the past and the changing roles over the years – and the loss of opportunities for them to be centres of support for children and their families – but also of hope that things were starting to be re considered. She spoke about the families and children in the areas that she is MP for and what is being done – and what could be done. However the thing I liked most was she questioned why education was ruled by politicians who are not experts within the field of education – and that a better system was needed – cross party maybe? I am sure the same can be said for health.

I have since read that Dame Tessa Jowell is standing down as an MP as from the 2015 elections – I understand her position but it will be a loss to lose someone on ‘the inside’ who was prepared to challenge the historic way of doing things within Government. However, I hear she might be standing as London Mayor and maybe – at least at a local level she will be able to bring about change?

Our second speaker was Sir Al Aynsley – Green – I had not heard him speak in person before – although I had heard snippets on the TV before.

I liked what Sir Al Aynsley Green had to say (well most of it) because it was clear he was passionate about children’s well being – and he had a photo up of a lovely young baby who  turned out to be his granddaughter. Sir Al spoke from the heart and he also  questioned things that are happening now and have happened in the past. He spoke about how things are done in other countries, about children’s rights about the role of their parents.

Also Sir Aynsley – Green said (of the government) – ‘No more reports’ ‘We know what needs doing – we do not need another report’ I can’t remember but I think he said something on the lines of ‘What we need now is some action’

There was of course lots of other things that Sir Al said but as I don’t take notes I don’t want quote him as saying things unless I am sure.

The next speaker was Dr.Gabriella Conti – I found it very difficult to understand Gabrielle’s presentation – I remember the bits about monkeys and attachment – and how the parenting experience passes on to the next generation, ie if a child does not receive good parenting experiences – it is likely that they will be unable to provide good parenting to their own children. This is something that I had worked out for myself, before listening to this presentation.

Gabrielle also showed lots of graphs – and I struggled with these as well as they all looked similar – and the text was quite small. However, I did get the overall impression that Gabrielle was interested  in testing children to ensure they were ‘doing well’ and in the economic benefits of childcare and so on – not surprising considering her background in economics.  I would like to know more – because to me nurturing and attachments are fundamental to well being, and although will (do) lead to children developing to their full potential (whatever that might be) and will have a positive impact on the economics  of a country in the long run.  However in the short term it means investment in services and support for children and families.

All the things that I had heard at the Early Education seminar – were mentioned – health, living wage, support for parents, less stress and so on – but money is needed to kick start this and to start to turn things around.

As I have said, I found it very hard to listen to and to understand what Gabrielle was saying, but I have found this You Tube clip of Gabrielle talking about her work, which you might find useful

After that there was a question and answer session, there were some interesting questions – and some interesting information – such as some training that is going to be rolled out to health professionals. There were some comments about changes over the years – not all for the good, for example new mums being sent home after only a few hours after giving birth;  comments about the lack of men in the room – although there were some; and some self defensive comments from those who felt their profession was being blamed – which was silly because over the years, none of us have got it right – and many of us have followed Government policy in the belief that they had it right. It is only in recent years that people have really started to question the constant ill informed Government policy – and have the confidence to stand up and say something about it

Talking about saying something, I did have opportunity to speak to the room during the next – and last part of the day – which was the interactive and action centred contributions – led by Sir Al Aynsley- Green. The idea was that we would state something that needed ‘sorting’ and give an action plan to enable this to happen.

Everyone also had to write their ideas on a piece of paper (if they spoke to the room or not) and hand it in on leaving (and all would be typed up and shared later)

So my contribution was to enable parents and practitioners to be enabled to support each other and to help themselves through making information easily accessible. I said the much of this information was not rocket science and could be easily implemented – if only people knew about it’

My colleague Marie said something on the lines of  ‘ important to see children’s services and children’s wellbeing in the context of family life and the care they receive at home, whether from parents, foster parents, or other carers.      It’s vital to support and value parenting, as only then can children be supported’.

It was very encouraging to note that nearly everyone in the room handed in a piece of paper with their ideas on (and having someone at the door to collect them, ensured they were handed in) – I may well use this idea myself at events / training.

I then said my goodbyes, navigated my way back to Marylebone station and sat having a coffee and doing a few emails from my phone, while waiting for the train home.

In summary was it worth the long day and expense of going to London and taking a day of work?

Yes it was, the time having coffee with my friend was a bonus, and worth travelling across London to ‘make it doable’ and the seminar was interesting and informative.

But the best bit was being in a room full of people from health, education – and MP’s who were all enthusiastic about working together and making a difference to the well being of our youngest children – I did feel like we had indeed ‘seized the day’ and that we are all on the brink of bringing about change through our determination and faith that we can make a difference and that we should not just stand by and let ill informed policy get in the way of children’s well being and futures.

In fact I sense that many were wanting to join their soap boxes to mine – and that is just what we need everyone on their soap box and speaking up for the children of this country.



3 responses to “Seizing the day to improve the nurture of our youngest children – in celebration of the 25th anniversary of UNCRC

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  1. Great Penny, I was due to attend. But, I was in India working. I am part of the Early Years Champion of 1001. Excellent cause to support. 🙂

  2. Pingback: Penny Webb: Seizing the day to improve the nurture of our youngest children | Mothers at Home

  3. Pingback: Improving children’s health must include better support for family life | Mothers at Home

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