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Durham County Council

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Our baby rooms project puts Durham in the spotlight

Published July 06, 2017 10.29am


Our Children and Young People's service is being praised as a shining example of good practice following its work on a pioneering project to improve the way in which babies are cared for and educated in nurseries

Thirteen nurseries across the county have been conducting research into the learning and development potential of babies and how it can be improved through changes to practice by baby room staff.

Collaborating with a professor

Baby rooms project
Baby rooms project
Our early years team invited Professor Kathy Goouch, a widely recognised specialist in the very earliest years of education, care and early literacy, from the Research Centre for Children, Families and Communities at Canterbury Christ Church University, to be part of the project and her collaboration with them is informing her own work in the field of the care and education of babies.

Professor Goouch said: "I was delighted to be asked to collaborate with the early years team on their Baby Room project and have been rewarded by their energetic, enthusiastic and insightful responses to the project.

"I am also impressed that this aspect of early childhood care is sufficiently important for Durham to commit resources, including time, to improving provision, demonstrating the commitment that the council is offering to babies and their carers in the region."

What the research covered

The research covered several areas but focused on the amount and quality of time devoted to close personal interactions with individual babies, as well as how songs and rhymes are used. Staff were also asked to reflect on their knowledge of individual babies, and the ways this is developed, and encouraged to document and demonstrate their own learning throughout the project. 

Professor Goouch continued: "It has been interesting to discuss with colleagues working with babies in nurseries across County Durham the ways in which research, including international research can be interpreted to inform and develop their own practice.  For example, when I mentioned in one nursery that in Scandinavian countries babies frequently slept outside during the day, they decided to look at ways to make sense of that in a County Durham context.  Their reflective approach has involved examining the researched benefits of outdoor sleeping and potentially the introduction of a 'snuggle hut' in their outdoor space, where babies could choose to sleep.

"Supporting colleagues to develop their current practices and consider new ways of working can only benefit the health, well-being and development of babies - and the people who care for them."

Developing across the county 

Through a series of conferences and training sessions with the early years team and Professor Goouch, the practitioners from County Durham have analysed their own working practice and are working to develop ideas around continuous improvement for the care and education of babies, which will be shared as the project develops.

Olwyn Gunn, Cabinet member for children and young people's services said: "We are delighted that our staff have been working with Professor Goouch, a recognised leader in this field and we are proud that work done by our staff with her could ultimately improve the lives and opportunities of babies and small children across the country if shared further.

"In Durham we are committed to providing children with the very best start in life and this programme illustrates our commitment to being a forward-thinking county, at the forefront of development and change where positive outcomes for children are concerned."