Early Years

Young children, practitioners (all those working directly with young children) and parents have experiences and views to share that can help shape the way in which services are planned and delivered. Early years settings and family environments that have a listening culture enable these experiences and views to inform day-to-day practice; develop the quality and sustainability of settings; enhance local authorities’ ability to respond to community needs; and, ultimately, improve outcomes for children.

There is now a legal requirement to listen to young children under the Childcare Act  2006, (section 3.5) which states that local authorities must have regard to any information about the views of young children which is available and relevant to these duties. Children need to be recognised as ‘partners’ in the planning and commissioning of services.  By regularly listening to young children, local partners can respond to children’s needs, identify barriers to learning and development, and ultimately work towards improving services for young children and supporting children to achieve their potential.

All staff directly working with young children, whether in early years, health or social sectors have a vital role to play in listening and responding to the voice of the child. Listening to young children is an integral part of understanding what they are feeling and what it is they need from their early years experience. It is key to providing environments in which all young children feel confident, safe and powerful thus ensuring they have the time and space to express themselves in whatever form suits them.

Early childhood services have a crucial role to play in developing a listening culture which nurtures day to day listening and provides opportunities for young children to make decisions about matters that directly affect them. Local authorities are beginning to use the voice of the child to inform the design, planning and delivery of services, together with the voices of practitioners and parents.

Visit Young Children’s Voices Network (YCVN) which offers support to local authorities and early childhood services.

Let’s listen - Young children’s voices - profiling and planning to enable their participation in children’s services
On 22 April 2010, YCVN launched a new resource; part funded by Participation Works, to support early years settings and local authorities to evidence and plan listening to young children and enabling young children’s participation in children’s services.
Find out more about this resource

Children’s Views Inform the Free Nursery Entitlement

In February 2010 the Young Children’s Voices Network (YCVN) published Am I staying for lunch today?

This collaborative project with Hertfordshire County Council, commissioned by DCSF, set out to inform national policy around the Free Entitlement (the number of free hours that all 3 and 4 year olds are entitled to receive) and how settings offer this to meet parents’ needs. As a result of the project DCSF have accepted a proposed amendment to the Code of Practice on this policy. Ten settings that were already delivering the 15 hour entitlement in Hertfordshire were selected to take part in the consultation, which involved 58 children aged 3 and 4 years. To download the report from the NCB website.

YCVN training options

Young Children’s Voices Network (YCVN) has developed a range of courses to support practitioners and those in strategic roles t

Early Years Case Studies

Here are five local authority case studies to illustrate different approaches to listening to and participation with young children.


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Participation Works is a consortium of…
British Youth CouncilChildren's Rights Alliance for EnglandNational Council for Voluntary Youth ServicesNational Youth AgencyNCB

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