What is an Early Learning Community?

Save the Children’s Early Learning Communities programme aims to improve early learning outcomes for children growing up in poverty in the UK. We work in many areas across the UK to add value to local services by bringing in specialist knowledge and methods. We bring together people and organisations who are experts in children’s development with the aim of narrowing the achievement gap between children growing up in poverty and their better off peers. We know that with the right support, every child can flourish – but sometimes we need to nudge “the system” to work better.

The Early Learning Community model aims to stimulate “systems change” by empowering all the organisations working for and with children to work together flexibly and sustainably. By working together differently and with local people they can address the root causes of issues affecting our communities and families.

The role of Save the Children

Save the Children is one of the UK’s biggest charities committed to tackling the inequalities faced by children around the world. We believe that poverty and the impact it has on children’s development is a human rights issue. Our programmes in the UK focus on addressing poverty and developing ways of changing the system around children and families.

One of the recognised challenges in systems thinking is shifting from theory to practice. Save the Children, with its experience of convening, has been able to resource the start-up of Early Learning Communities to put in place the framework needed to make sustainable change. By investing in a community for three to five years, practitioners, communities and families can be encouraged to trial new ways of working and build the evidence to embed them as a new normal.

Save the Children – powering the possible

What do we do & how?

Our work builds on the evidence based and knowledge of local services, organisations and families in five communities across the UK; Feltham (West London), Margate (Kent), Bettws (Newport, South Wales), Sheffield (South Yorkshire) and East Belfast (Northern Ireland).

In these communities we’re exploring how working together through a whole system approach can fundamentally change the way children living in poverty are supported to learn and develop.

What is different about an ELC approach? How does it work?

Bettws Early Learning Community seeks to create an integrated approach to children’s development and outcomes by bringing together the policies, processes and work of organisations delivering early education, family support and health and social care services to ensure they are responsive to local needs and characteristics.

This means working in partnership to improve children’s life chances by addressing how people work together across a community and what is going on under the surface.

What can an Early Learning Community do?

  • Enable local people to have their say in what services are needed locally
  • Tailor services, policies and processes to meet the particular characteristics and needs of a locality or community of interest
  • Share information and data
  • Share resources – not just funding, but also premises, processes and staff
  • Collaborate on staff and volunteer training – so that everyone understands the same thing

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