For the last nine years, The Duchess of Cambridge has spent time looking into how experiences in early childhood are often the root cause of today’s hardest social challenges such as addiction, family breakdown, poor mental health, suicide and homelessness.

Having met many people who are dealing with a range of issues, she has seen over
and over again how often these problems can be traced back to the earliest years of someone’s life. Early years professionals know that what we experience in the early years, from conception to the age of five, shapes the developing brain, which is why positive physical, emotional and cognitive development during this period is so crucial. It is a time when the building blocks are established, laying foundations that help provide greater resilience to deal with future adversity.

The Duchess wanted to dig deeper into the current early years landscape to understand the issues that we face and learn how we can best tackle them. It was important to listen to the experts, academics, practitioners, service providers and charities within the sector who work every day to make our families and communities stronger. Equally important was hearing from parents themselves and in January 2020, The Duchess launched a landmark survey and travelled around the four nations to meet with parents and listen to their views on raising the next generation.

Parents, carers and families are at the heart of our work in the early years. In January 2020, The Duchess launched a landmark public survey about the under-fives, in conjunction with IPSOD Mori, sparking the biggest ever conversation on early childhood. More than half a million people took part, which was the largest ever response from the public to research in early years. Open to everyone, it sought society’s views on raising the next generation, so that we can all work together on the key issues affecting our communities and provide help where it is needed most.

The findings should provide a vital source of information for the early years sector, helping it to better understand public perceptions of the importance of the early years, and the first-hand experiences of parents, families and carers./ 98% believe that nurture is essential to lifelong outcomes, just 24% think pregnancy to age 5 is the most pivotal period for health and happiness in adulthood. The Duchess will announce plans to elevate the importance of early childhood and the future focus on early years development.

90% of respondents see mental health & wellbeing as critical to child development, a mere 10% of parents took time to look after themselves when they prepared for the arrival of their baby. Covid- 19 has dramatically increased parental loneliness, with 38% experiencing this before the crisis rising to 68% during the first lockdown. Other findings include 7 out of 10 parents felt how being judged by others can make a bad situation worse, with 48% saying negativity affects their mental health The report concluded on a whole society needs to be more supportive of parents and families in early years, with needed to be done to promote the importance of early years and better support for parents mental health.

Neil Leitch- chief executive of the Early years Alliance, said ”We know that the first five years of a child’s life are absolutely critical for a child’s long-term life chances,and yet all too often, education and learning is seen as something that begins at the school gates,’ he said. ‘At a time when many parents of young children have been cut off from their normal sources of help, and can only seek limited support from family and friends, it is vital that the Government recognises the value of the early years and ensures that the vital services that provide such important support to parents and families across the country are able to continue to do so.’

Purnima Tanuku, chief executive of National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA) said, ‘This report is crucial in showcasing the importance of early years for children’s development, their lifelong learning and therefore their life chances. ‘The results from the survey are clear that parents do not always recognise the very real impact that early education, both within the family and through formal childcare settings, has on their children’s development.

‘Nurseries and their staff are excellent at providing great learning opportunities for children, but also supporting families. Early years practitioners are key to developing a child’s foundations for lifelong learning, as well as supporting parents to continue learning opportunities at home.

‘These Five Big Insights and the rest of this research must be considered in any policy decisions affecting families and the early years sector – which has been doing fantastic work for children throughout the pandemic.’

The 5 big questions asked are:

What do you believe is most important for children growing up in the UK today to live a happy adult life?

A) Good physical and mental health
B) Good friendships and relationships
C) Access to opportunities
D) Access to a good education

Which of these statements is closest to your opinion?

A) It is primarily the responsibility of parents to give children aged 0-5 the best chance of health and happiness
B) It is primarily the responsibility of others in society to give children aged 0-5 the best chance of health and happiness
C) It is the shared responsibility of parents and others in society to give children aged 0-5 the best chance of health and happiness
D) Don’t know

How much do you agree or disagree with this statement? The mental health and wellbeing of parents and carers has a great impact on the development of their child(ren).
A) Strongly agree
B) Tend to agree
C) Neither agree nor disagree
D) Tend to disagree
E) Strongly disagree

Which of the following is closest to your opinion of what influences how children develop from the start of pregnancy to age 5?

A) Mostly the traits a child is born with (i.e. nature)
B) Mostly the experiences of a child in the early years (i.e. nurture)
C) Both nature and nurture equally
D) Don’t know

Which period of a child and young person’s life do you think is the most important for health and happiness in adulthood?

• Start of pregnancy to 5 years
• 5-11 years (primary school)
• 11-16 years (secondary school)
• 16-18 years (further education)
• 18-24 years (young adulthood)
• All equally important
• Don’t know

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