A child’s first day at school is a big milestone for both the parent and child. We know good early education can boost children’s future learning and narrow the gap between children who are disadvantaged and their peers.

In 2020, we partnered with the Masonic Charitable Foundation to update and expand our Big Hopes Big Future programme so that more children and families are equipped to be ‘school ready’ to make the most of their child’s start in education. When Covid-19 stopped the roll out of this face-to-face programme, we were able to adapt it so that Home-Start volunteers could continue to help children feel confident starting school.

Emma Kirk, Head of Projects at Home-Start UK explains: “The pandemic is causing inequalities to widen and we know it’s had a huge impact on early years' education. While we couldn’t implement our Big Hopes, Big Future during lockdown, we’ve been able to adapt it. With the support of Masonic Charitable Foundation and Home-Start UK, our volunteers continued to have resources to help prepare children for school.”

Key elements in our Big Hopes, Big Future school readiness programme have been made available to Home-Start volunteers like Debbie Hastings from Home-Start Corby.

Debbie said: “We were given a pack filled with lots of great ideas and fun activities. The information was brilliant – it provided some really good tips. I used it with Matilda, Kelly's daughter, who started school in September. As volunteers we all come with our different life experiences and interests. But having access to the same resources created especially by Home-Start child development experts ensures we’re all consistent in our approach to helping prepare children in the best possible way for starting school. 

Some families have too much on their plate so they’re not able to help their children get ready for school. It’s wonderful that we can step in and provide that support. Every child should be able to start school confident and ready to learn, and I’m proud to play a small part in helping that to happen.

Kelly Sims’ daughter Matilda was excited about starting school thanks to Debbie’s support. Kelly said:

“With Matilda’s additional needs I’d been worrying about how she’d be able to cope with school. Over video calls Debbie helped Matilda to write her name, taught her colours, counting and she regularly reads to her.

Thanks to Debbie’s support Matilda was more than ready. Watching Matilda talk excitedly about school still fills me with so much happiness. I feel secure as a mum that she has been given everything she needs to get the very best start.

Without Home-Start a lot of children would be going without and a lot of parents would feel like they are failing.

My family has been through some tough times, and we needed help, even if it wasn’t easy to admit that at the time.”

We would like to thank the Masonic Charitable Foundation for enabling us to adapt the Big Hopes, Big Future programme during lockdown so that volunteers could still run the programme. As we emerge from lockdown, we will be able to resume the Big Hopes, Big Future programme in person, with training scheduled for July.

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