This week we are reflecting on the Five Big Questions that the Duchess of Cambridge for the Royal Foundation has posed to every adult living in the UK. If you’ve not heard of them, they are part of a survey to try and increase knowledge of what parents understand about the importance of early childhood. The survey has been well received by organisations in the early childhood sector for drawing attention to the importance of early years and early childhood development. For instance, Liz Bayram for PACEY, the professional association for childcare and early years, responded by saying “We hope its findings will shine a light not only on the vital importance of early development but also the challenges many children, families, practitioners and others face”. Similarly, Neil Leitch of the Early Years Alliance has stated that “At a time when the needs of the child is [sic] so often overlooked when it comes to government policy, we warmly welcome the fact that ‘Five Big Questions’ focuses on how best to ensure all children, regardless of background, are able to grow up happy and healthy.”
The five questions ask participants:
- to rank what aspects are most important for children growing up in the UK today to live a happy life;
- to consider who has responsibility to give children the chance of health and happiness;
- to state to what extent they agree that “the mental health and wellbeing of parents and carers has a great impact on the development of their child(ren)”;
- to reflect upon what they believe about the influences of nature and nurture on children’s development;
- to define which period of a child and young person’s life they think is the most important for health and happiness in adulthood.
The name of the survey is a little bit misleading, as following the “Five Big Questions” is a final, sixth question asking “Is there anything else you would like to tell us about your views on the early years of childhood?” In our opinion, it’s this question that’s the most valuable. Whilst the five main questions will give the researchers some quantifiable data to analyse, this final open-ended question allows participants to state their perspectives on early childhood in an unrestricted way. We are going to use the opportunity to talk about the down-ward pressures that school systems place on early years, coming as a result of the “strong assessment culture that exists in schooling in the wider education context in England” (Ang, 2014, pp.191-192) that has the impact that two-year olds are being ‘taught’ phonics.
We are sure that you might have other ideas about early childhood that you think the research team need to know about and we would encourage you to take part in the survey by going to 5bigquestions.org.uk/. We would love to hear how you respond to the survey and what you think it is that the Royal Foundation need to know.