Jubilee+ Research Team
Progress report: early years research

Between July and September 2014, the Jubilee+ Impact Research Group undertook a national survey to identify the scale and nature of the impacts that  Church-based early years projects are having in the UK. This followed wide consultation with individual experts and networks/franchises working with families and early years groups, as well as a review of previous research.

440 groups answered the survey representing 8,837 parents/carers, 11,341 children aged 0–5 and 260 older children.

The output of this research will be published before the end of 2014. However, in this update, we explain our methodology and highlight some of the early themes and conclusions that are emerging. 

The importance of working with children in early years (aged 0-5)

There has been a large amount of academic and social policy research concluding that the single most important factor influencing a child’s intellectual and social development is the quality of parenting and care they receive and the quality of the home learning environment that this creates. Jubilee+ has published an article about the importance of early years development.

While social action projects that focus on meeting crisis needs are fully justified, to tackle the root causes is argued to be more effective in dealing with economic, social and intellectual poverty. Working with children in their early years, alongside giving support to their families, has been identified as a priority for Government and charities alike.

What is the Church doing?

The Jubilee+ 2012 National Church and Social Action survey revealed that each church was, on average, undertaking 8.2 social action initiatives. The most common of these were:

% of churches running different social action initiatives

Parents and toddlers — 62.4%
Schools assemblies/RE work — 61.9%
Festival/Fun days — 55.6%
Food distribution — 52.3%
Children’s club (up to age 11) — 49.4%
Caring for elderly — 44.4%
Youthwork (12-18) — 40.1%

52% of children in England access some form of parent and toddler group via churches.
Findings about the parent and toddler groups

The most important primary goals for groups are fun, friendship and faith.

There are outcomes expected for everyone involved – children, parents/carers, group helpers, and churches.

The majority of parents/carers who attend groups are not Christians, and most are female

Personal relationships are the most significant factor in persuading parents and carers to join the groups.

Emerging themes and conclusions

Impacts can be grouped according to the degree to which they impact individuals or society as a whole:

Enjoyment - Almost everyone who is part of church-based early years groups derives enjoyment from their participation.

Faith - Parents/carers are finding faith and becoming Christians through early years groups. Churches have experienced numerical growth. 82% of groups report that their church has grown numerically at least ‘a little’ as a result of the group

Life Skills - Child development is enhanced by engaging in the activities provided by groups.

Personal Well Being - There is a positive impact upon stress for parents/carers and group helpers gain long term satisfaction from being involved.

Family - Parents/carers get connected into new friendship/support networks, but there is little evidence that this extends to their partner relationships. 88% of groups report that, to a material extent, parents/carers become part of a new friendship network

Community - Early years groups enhance the Church’s ability to engage with their communities. 91% of groups report some positive impact upon the outward-looking and community engagement culture of their church. Community is built among group helpers and parents/carers, who develop long-lasting friendships that would not have happened without the group.

Social Care Infrastructure -  Churches are very rarely commissioned by public authorities to provide services related to early years, yet the impact of their intervention does make some difference to the need for public service intervention.

Overall take up/crossover into other church activities is relatively low but there are examples of where there is significant crossover and personal impact, backed up by testimony in free text survey responses.

Large numbers of those who come to the groups are not Christians. They come because they are personally invited by friends and relatives. Many of them find long-lasting friendship and support and some find broader life-skill support and develop personal faith.

Download the Progress Report here.