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Social Justice

How London Early Years Foundation has supported children and families through the pandemic

The London Early Years Foundation is making a positive difference through their approach to childcare in the capital.

The Big Issue wants to celebrate the Changemakers that are making the world a better place through all the hard work they do every day. Each year we take the time to look back and thank them for the time and effort they put in to helping others.

The London Early Years Foundation is one such organisation making a positive difference through their approach to childcare in the capital.

London Early Years Foundation, which receives support from The Big Issue’s social enterprise investment arm, Big Issue Invest, operates 39 award-winning nurseries in some of the capital’s most disadvantaged areas, providing childcare to more than 4,000 children across 12 London boroughs. The foundation’s work is crucial at a time when children’s services are being cut, childcare is becoming more expensive for low-income families and people facing hardship are driven deeper into poverty. 

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June O’Sullivan, CEO of the London Early Years Foundation (LEYF), spoke to us about their work. 

In what ways would you say what you do at the LEYF nurseries is different? 

All of our profits are reinvested back into the business, which means we can deliver our social mission and provide early learning and education to over a third of children in London who otherwise may not have access to it. There is clear evidence that children who attend nurseries with good quality education have better outcomes in life.

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Ultimately, our overarching ambition is to change the world one child at a time. Together with families and communities we enable each child to be the best they can through wonderful experiences that extend their learning. This is shaped by our four core values: Brave (pushing new boundaries and standing up for the rights of children, leading innovation and research), Nurturing (creating safe, welcoming and homely environments), Inspiring (encouraging continuous development for children and staff) and Fun(creative, imaginative and learning through play).

Over the last difficult couple of years it’s been especially important to ensure children are engaged and motivated – what ways have LEYF nurseries adapted? 

When many of our nurseries were forced to close temporarily during lockdown, we extended our home learning virtually. 

Last year we also hosted free holiday clubs at two of our nurseries (Eastbury Nursery and Pre-School and Angel Pre-School) to help young children most in need. The clubs included activities such as football coaching, dance, hoop ball, movement, yoga and meditation. In addition, children were taught how to cook healthy meals along with their parents (without using sugar). 

We saw our most vulnerable children arriving at nursery hungry, anxious and developmentally delayed as a result of lockdowns and the impact of living in poverty (exacerbated by the pandemic) so we set up the Doubling Down programme in October 2020. Between October 2020 and July 2021, 97 children were offered an additional 15 hours at nursery each week supported by generous donations. Analysis from Doubling Down research found that over 70 per cent of parents and staff saw a positive impact on their child’s communication skills, social development and behaviour, plus there was a profound positive impact on the mood, sleep, empathy, school readiness and nutritious eating among children. 

What are your plans or ambitions for the future? 

Scaling our impact and sharing our model through our global academy. In addition, we want to extend 
our high-quality, affordable, and accessible early childhood education and care to disadvantaged children in London and beyond. 

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