Oxfordshire Youth chair the Children & Young People’s forum, the leading forum for VCS organisations working with 0-25 year olds. From this forum representatives are elected to strategic boards. This newsletter will be the main form of communication from the Children’s Trust Board to the wider VCS and this time Charlotte reports on the key messages from the last meeting:

Ready for school? Ready to thrive?

by Charlotte Pearson-Miles, Partnerships Manager for Viva Doorsteps, Parent Support Coordinator for Fegans 

I was delighted to be elected as the 3rd VCS rep on the Children’s Trust Board and was also delighted to be able to bring the Early Years’ agenda to my first Board meeting on Thursday 20th June. To set the scene: given the developmental importance of children’s pre-school years, several organisations have come together, through the Oxfordshire Children and Young People’s Forum, to form an Early Years’ Voluntary and Community Sector (VCS) Projects’ working group.

One of the working group’s key areas of discussion to date has been how to improve our sector’s co-production and collaboration with Oxfordshire County Council, recognising that OCC shares our commitment to building stronger partnerships and improving communication. The Children’s Trust Board meeting was an opportunity to find out more how Early Years fits into the County Council’s priorities and to share more about how the VCS can contribute. I’m glad to report back that Early Years’ discussions received a good amount of air-time!

Early Years was firmly on the Children’s Trust agenda in the shape of Agenda Item 5.2: ‘School Readiness’. In recent years primary school head-teachers have noted an increasing issue in relation to many young children in Oxfordshire not being ‘ready’ for school. A disadvantaged child in Oxfordshire is further behind at the start of primary school than an average English disadvantaged child. To redress this, Oxfordshire’s School Readiness strategy will be rolled out from September 2019 and launched at the Early Years’ conference in November 2019.

Item 5.3 was then Jodie Lloyd-Jones’s slot on behalf of the Children & Young People’s Forum. She gave a well-received presentation, pointing out how vital voluntary organisations are in helping plug gaps in CYP services right across the age range. This is certainly true of the many VCS organisations working with pre-school children and families. Their value cannot be overestimated!

One of the other areas discussed was that Voluntary and Community Sector initiatives could – and should – be a valuable source of Early Help Assessments/referrals whereas at present most EHAs come from schools rather than 0-5 providers. As you can see from the statistics put together by Oxfordshire Community Foundation, the earlier we can intervene in children’s lives, the better the outcomes.

Shockingly, for a county which prides itself on being a world-class centre for education, Oxfordshire has actually seen its educational ‘disadvantage gap’ widen from 20 to 23% in terms of those children who are ‘ready’ to start school, and those who sadly are not. We need to focus on intervening as early as possible to make sure ALL Oxfordshire’s children start school ready to thrive.

To find out more about how the VCS is represented to strategic boards, and to make sure that your voice is heard, come to the C&YP Forum networking event on 29th August.

The three VCS reps to the Children’s Trust Board are:

  • Jodie Lloyd- Jones, Oxfordshire Youth
  • Emma Anderson, Oxford Hub
  • Charlotte Pearson-Miles, Viva