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Minister visits PACEY project in Cambridgeshire

On 14th January, Education and Childcare Minister Sam Gyimah visited Millfield Primary School in Littleport, to meet children and see first-hand the positive effects of PACEY's Starting School Together project.

The innovative Starting School Together project aims to improve the transition for children from childcare settings into full-time education, and builds on findings from a previous PACEY survey which highlighted high levels of anxiety among parents around their child starting school.

The Minister met with PACEY, school staff, early years providers and parents to talk about the positive outcomes of the project.

Commenting on the visit, Sam Gyimah, said:

"I was delighted to meet with the children and staff at Millfield Primary School and talk to some of the people who have been central to making the Starting School Together project such a success. It was encouraging to see how settled the pupils are, thanks to the dedicated staff who have eased their transition, and to hear how the project has supported families making the move from early years to primary education.

"The project is a great opportunity to build on the good practice of nurseries, childminders and schools who already work together to ensure children coming into full time education have the best start possible, and it was helpful to hear their thoughts on the project as we look at how we can encourage more partnerships like these."

Starting School Together focuses on partnership working between schools, childcare providers, parents and the local community, sharing knowledge and experience. It was made possible through a grant from the Department for Education, and demonstrates how children starting school can be best supported to settle quickly and easily into school life."

Liz Bayram, Chief Executive of PACEY, said: “The Starting School Together pilot project has demonstrated that strengthening the partnerships between parents, childcare professionals and teachers can really help children make a positive start to school and also ease the anxiety felt by parents. We very much hope that the project can be rolled out to other areas of country.”

Initial results from the project showed that the children had higher levels of wellbeing, self-confidence and independence than the national average. Parents also reported feeling more confident about their child starting school.

Charlotte Follen whose son Leo took part in the Starting School Together pilot comments: “This project has made starting school a happy and easy experience, after speaking to friends and other mums I truly believe every child should have his opportunity.”

The initiative supports families with educational toys and resources, face-to-face meetings, and an online toolkit; in the run-up to starting school, while information about how well children are progressing is shared via a secure online site between providers, schools and parents.

Starting School Together is running across four schools in two areas of disadvantage in Cambridgeshire and North Yorkshire. Within these schools, the aim was to manage the transition of those children who were due to start school in September 2015, with a focus on disadvantaged children. 60 families were identified in each of the SST project pilot sites, and almost 100 children overall participated in the pilot approach.

An independent evaluation being is conducted by University College London’s (UCL) Institute of Education (IOE) and findings will be available in March 2016.

*Image courtesy of Ely News