14th July 2020
This week, the BBC is launching its biggest ever education initiative – Tiny Happy People. It’s a new, free website for parents which hopes to pay a key role in halving the UK’s word gap. We are delighted to share a Voices blog from Joe McCulloch, Executive Producer of Tiny Happy People.
Helping people fulfil their potential has always been one of the BBC Education’s guiding principles. But there is a problem in the UK. Children are starting school without the language and communication skills they need to thrive, and when children start behind, they stay behind. Worryingly, this can have a dramatic effect on their life outcomes, including their success at school, earning potential in adult life, their mental health and wellbeing, and even their life expectancy.
The word gap
Tiny Happy People has one big aim, along with a broad coalition of like-minded partners, to halve the UK’s word gap. Evidence shows the attainment gap that exists in the UK between wealthier and poorer communities begins before children start school.
Evidence shows that more than 1 in 4 children (27%) in England do not reach the necessary level of literacy development (language, communication and literacy skills) by the time they start primary school, rising to more than 1 in 3 (42%) in some areas (Department for Education stats). The picture is similar across all nations of the UK.
“We’re working to a very simple underlying message: talk to your baby from as early as possible, starting with pregnancy” – Joe McCulloch, Tiny Happy People Executive Producer
Every day chat in every day routines
Focusing support on parents of 0-4 year-olds in the home learning environment is an evidenced way of tackling this situation. Our aim is to empower parents and instil confidence in them to realise that they are most important person in their child’s life, and that by using simple, easy to follow techniques, they can make a massive difference. We know it will take several years to achieve our goals, and Tiny Happy People is a long-term commitment in early years from the BBC.
We’re working to a very simple underlying message: talk to your baby from as early as possible, starting with pregnancy. Language and communication skills are the building blocks to unlocking a child’s potential in the early years. It forms the basis of their literacy and can help them to understand, and be understood by, the world around them.
On our website, we’ve built a huge library of free resources for parents and carers that have been specifically designed to help them develop their child’s language and communication skills through every day routines. Activities include a range of short films, articles and quizzes that will support language development, as well as great tips for new parents and advice to support parents’ wellbeing.
Evidence based, quality assured
Based at MediaCityUK, Salford, the BBC team behind Tiny Happy People has spent the last two years building and fine-tuning the initiative. In that time, we’ve listened, and developed: we’ve been immersed in the world of speech and language and surrounded ourselves with experts in the field.
We created a Language Advisory Group (LAG), including a mix of professionals working in front-line health service provision and academics studying the early years. The LAG helped us shape our core messages and moulded our approach to specifically tackle the word gap.
We have worked closely with the health visitors on our LAG group to quality assure our content and to ensure it fits with clinical best practice. Unicef UK has also worked closely with Tiny Happy People to ensure their guidance on infant feeding is reflected across our content. They are happy to support the campaign and encourage practitioners to recommend this resource to all parents. We are also officially endorsed by the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists and Public Health England.
Tiny Happy People launch
After two years of development, we are delighted that HRH The Duchess of Cambridge launched Tiny Happy People on BBC Breakfast. She met with families who use Tiny Happy People to discuss the joys and challenges of parenting, the importance of nurturing children in their early years, as well as some of her favourite content on the Tiny Happy People website.
“Tiny Happy People is an invaluable resource which provides parents and carers with support and tips, as well as simple activities to ensure children develop the language skills they need to have the best possible start in life” – HRH The Duchess of Cambridge
Her Royal Highness has been involved with the initiative for a number of months, having visited the Tiny Happy People team at Broadcasting House in London last November to take part in some development sessions and to learn more about the animation production process (see photo above). The Duchess was involved in the character and background development for an animation on parenting, which is now published on the THP website.
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