Sports field with goal posts and houses in the distance

School Readiness Summit 2019

The summit celebrated the successes since the inaugural summit in October 2017, showcasing some of the innovative work going on across Greater Manchester, including place-based, integrated working, a whole-system approach to early years delivery, and collaborating with world-leading universities, foundations and organisations including the BBC.

Delegates heard from Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham as he revealed there has been an increase in the number of children starting Year 1 with a ‘good level of development’, with approximately 200 more children starting school ready to learn compared to the previous year.

Lucy Powell MP, Greater Manchester’s political lead for school readiness, reiterated Greater Manchester's ambition to give every child the best start in life, and Jon Rouse, Chief Officer, Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership, outlined Greater Manchester's approach and progress that's being made across the city-region.

BBC Learning shared the early findings of their work in Greater Manchester, working with the GMCA to develop, shape and pilot new and innovative ways to improve early years language and literacy.

Attendees also explored new ways to continue improving school readiness and tackle educational inequality including investing in the early years workforce and skills, doing things differently with data and digital, and working more closely with the voluntary and community sector to achieve Greater Manchester’s school ready ambition.

Greater Manchester children starting school ready to learn - news article (February 2019)

Summit topics and content

Workshop - Bridging the gap

The summit provided attendees with the opportunity to take part in a number of workshops, working with early years service providers and users to debate and discuss how we can continue to close the educational inequality gap in Greater Manchester.  

One particular workshop, ‘Bridging the Gap’, headed by Executive Head Teacher Rukhsana Ahmed, explored the role of the voluntary, community and social enterprise (VCSE) sector and the services available for families across Greater Manchester. The session focussed on the impact these services have on the development of early years by supporting parents during the crucial first years of their child’s life.

Rukhsana, who also leads children centres and nurseries for the Big Life Group, discussed the aim of taking a holistic approach to early years, ensuring the approach of the VCSE sector is ‘person-centred, child-centred and family-centred; focused on where they are, where they want to be and how we can get them there’. Rukhsana promoted the idea that ‘relationship building is key to ensuring a holistic approach to developing early years’.

Rukhsana then introduced Iqra Choudry from Longsight, Manchester, who shared her emotional and motivating story of  the help she received from local services when she first moved to Manchester with her ten month old daughter. Through a service provided by the VCSE sector, Iqra developed a positive relationship with not only her child, but with herself, which in turn had a positive impact of her child’s early years development.

As a young Muslim mother living in new area, Iqra explained how following one simple conversation with her Health Visitor, she felt empowered to access local help and support – both emotional and practical. This  included children’s centres and help with accommodation, which became the catalyst for her daughter’s, her family’s her own personal development and success .  Iqra stated that this simple emotional support highlighted the ‘difference between knowing the path and taking the path’ and emphasised  the ‘need of someone to hold (my) hand and guide’.

The workshop showcased the important role of the VCSE sector in bridging the gap between parents and early years services, by addressing a broader range of factors which affect early years development. By offering advice and support to parents to improve confidence and take steps at home to make the most of those crucial first 1,000 days, and help ensure more children start school ready to learn. Iqra finished the session by saying the VSCE sector ‘didn’t hold her accountable for mother she was’ but ‘for the mother she was capable of being’.