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Sheffield Early Learning Community

In Sheffield, we’re working to improve children’s early learning outcomes – specifically speech, language and communication, and social and emotional outcomes of children 0-3. We’re working in and with communities across the north of Sheffield to understand the challenges they face and the opportunities for change.

Together with children, families and professionals we’re testing out new and innovative approaches to maximise local assets to support young children. By adopting a hyper-local approach, we’re able to identify not just ‘what works’ but ‘what works here’. This strengthens the links across a community, making it easier to embed changes. We can then use what we’re learning with communities to influence local, regional and national practice and policy.

Lexi-Mae, six, outside her home in Sheffield, UK. (Hanna Adcock / Save the Children)

Why Sheffield?

Sheffield is one the of largest cities in England. It is also classified as one of the greenest cities in the country with 155m² of green space for every resident. It has two universities, was the UK’s first City of Sanctuary and has a vibrant cultural scene.

But it is also a city of deep-rooted inequality, still struggling with post-industrial disadvantage. Studies have shown that life expectancy drops by 10 years along a single bus route, the 83, that goes from an affluent part of the city to one that is more disadvantaged .

At a local authority level Sheffield’s early years statistics look promising. 62.4% of all children achieve expected levels of progress as per the Early Years Foundation Stage, in comparison to a national average of 63.4%. However, diving deeper into this data shows a different picture. Only 47% of children eligible for free school meals across the city are achieving the expected levels.

The 2021 census also gives a detailed picture of poverty. For example:

  • A staggering 68.5% of households in Burngreave and Grimesthorpe are classified as deprived in at least one dimension
  • 33% of people over 16 in Firth Park have no qualifications
  • 46.8% of people aged 16 and over in Shirecliffe and Parkwood Springs are deemed economically inactive

Statistics like these have led us to work in the wards of Burngreave, Shiregreen & Brightside and Firth Park in the north of Sheffield. This is the area of focus for the Early Learning Community.

Who are we working with?

The Early Learning Community was started with Save the Children and our founding partners:

  • Watercliffe Meadow Primary School
  • Sheffield City Council
  • Sheffield NHS Children’s Foundation Trust
  • Sheffield Hallam University 

The key outcomes of Speech, Language & Communication and Social & Emotional development were agreed through a strategy development process with the community and with early years practitioners. 

We continue to work with parents, families, practitioners and the third sector to understand the depth of the challenges faced and co-design solutions together. We are currently working with a network of organisations who all play a part in supporting families and children in the earliest years.

Together, we’re working for the best outcomes for children.