Kate launches national survey on early years development of children

By Tony Jones, PA Court Correspondent

The Duchess of Cambridge has described the early years development of children as life’s most “crucial” moment for “future health and happiness” as she launched a landmark national survey about the issue.

Kate has made the subject one of the main pillars of her public work and travelled to Birmingham to highlight her ambitious project to ask “five big questions on the under fives” which will guide her future work.

The online poll, conducted by Ipsos Mori on behalf of the Royal Foundation, is thought to be the biggest survey of its kind and aims to encourage a nationwide conversation on early childhood.

Kate, who has begun a 24-hour tour of Birmingham, London, Cardiff and Surrey to launch the initiative, joined a group of youngsters at an interactive attraction and chatted to health professionals, fellow parents and supporters of her project.

When the duchess arrived she said: “I’m here today to help launch a survey to hear society’s views about raising the next generation.

“Parents, carers and families are at the heart of caring for children in the formative years, so that is why I want to listen to them.

“As a parent I know how much we cherish the future health and happiness of our children.

Kate in Birmingham to launch the project (Eddie Keogh/PA)

“I want to hear the key issues affecting our families and communities so I can focus my work on where it is needed most.

“My ambition is to provide a lasting change for generations to come.”

The duchess, who is the mother of three young children, Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis, joined primary and nursery school age children in MiniBrum, a child-size version of Birmingham where children learn through play, in the city’s Thinktank science museum.

She crouched down to chat to some of the youngsters in a shop and when she moved on to a cafe pulled a face of surprise when a cupboard door, designed to be removed came off in her hand and she joked “we’ve broken the cafe”.

The duchess has made the subject one of the main pillars of her public work (Eddie Keogh/PA)

Kate said later when chatting to a group of parents: “I think the early years of life are the most important years, for life long health and happiness.

“They help us avoid adversity, or certainly builds resilience to adversity in later life – prevent challenges with mental later down the line.

“It is estimated that there’s a huge social and economic cost to late intervention of £17bn in England and Wales.

“The early years are more crucial for future health and happiness than any other moment in our lifetime.”

Kate has established a steering group of experts, which first met in May 2018, to look at the issue of early years and they have been considering how the duchess and her Royal Foundation can help improve the outcomes for youngsters.

The duchess’s survey will run for a month, from January 21 to February 21, and will ask those taking the poll five questions to gauge their views about early years.

During the visit, Kate also met Giovanna Fletcher, behind the Happy Mum Happy Baby podcast, who has also written about being a mother to three children with husband Tom Fletcher, a member of the band McFly.

Jasmine Norris, assistant nursery manager at St Paul’s Nursery in the Balsall Heath area of Birmingham, brought eight of her children to the event and chatted to the duchess.

She said: “I think early years is vital, incredibly important. I think we help the children to move on into their future education, and their lives.

“We want them to be the best they can be – we want to prepare them for life.”

David Holmes, chief executive of Family Action, which helps families in need and has Kate as its royal patron, joined the duchess at her launch event.

He said: “Every parent, carer and family wants the best for their child, and raising the profile of the vital early years in a child’s life is work of national importance.

“The insight from this survey will give the early years sector valuable direction in designing and delivering services and support which reflect what matters most to people.”