The Duchess of Cambridge stepped up her early years campaign today with the launch of a new initiative dedicated to raising awareness of and driving action on this crucial period in a child’s life.
Kate, 39, is launching The Royal Foundation Centre for Early Childhood, which will drive focus on bringing to light the extraordinary impact of the early years in order to transform society for generations to come.
The mother-of-three, who has championed the cause since she joined the Royal Family, stressed our first five years ‘lay important foundations for our future selves’ and ultimately ‘shapes the adults and the parents we become’.
The Royal Foundation Centre for Early Childhood will focus on three key areas of activity in the years to come, which include promoting and commissioning high-quality research to increase knowledge and share best practice. It will also work with people from across the private, public and voluntary sectors to collaborate on new solutions, and develop creative campaigns to raise awareness and inspire action – driving real, positive change on the early years.
The launch of the Centre comes one week after the Duchess was joined by the US First Lady Dr Jill Biden on a visit to Connor Downs Academy in Cornwall. The duo visited the school’s Reception Class to hear how its pupils are supported through a bespoke Early Years Foundation Stage curriculum before hosting a roundtable on the importance of early childhood, attended by experts from the UK and the USA.
For over a decade the Duchess has seen first-hand how some of today’s hardest social challenges – from addiction and violence to family breakdown and homelessness, so often underpinned by poor mental health – have their roots in the earliest years of life.
The Duchess of Cambridge stepped up her early years campaign today with the launch of a new initiative dedicated to raising awareness of and driving action on this crucial period in a child’s life. Pictured wearing a necklace emblazoned with the initials of her three children, Prince George, seven, Princess Charlotte, six, and Prince Louis, two
Kate said hearing from teachers and parents in 2018 helped her understand the need to support children before school, which led her to ‘the science of our early childhoods and the lifelong impact of our physical and mental wellbeing’
In that time Kate also convened a steering group of experts to look at how cross-sector collaboration could bring about lasting change, and spent time listening to the public about their views on the importance of the early years. As a result, she is committed to elevating the importance of early childhood and continuing the conversation on this vital issue.
Sharing a video to the Kensington Palace Instagram page, entitled ’10 years in the making’, Kate said: ‘My early years journey began by meeting people rebuilding their lives from addiction, homelessness and family breakdown. Listening to these experiences, I came to understand that poor mental health and a traumatic childhood shaped their lives.
‘I wanted to do more to help prevent those social challenges by improving mental health [launching Heads Together]. But learning more only highlighted the need to start this earlier in life. Hearing from teachers and parents [in 2018] helped me understand the need to support children before school, which led me to the science of our early childhoods and the lifelong impact of our physical and mental wellbeing.
‘And because my journey started by listening, I wanted to hear more about what the public thought. And this led me to today – the realisation that we need to change the way we think about early childhood. And that starts now.’
The launch of The Royal Foundation Centre for Early Childhood is a landmark step in Her Royal Highness’ work and signals her lifelong commitment to improving outcomes across society. To coincide with the launch, the Centre has published its inaugural report, Big Change Starts Small, which brings together leading sector research in one place and underlines the critical lifelong impact of the early years on individuals, our economy and society at large.
It also sets out recommendations on how all aspects of society can contribute positively and make a difference on this important issue.
Sharing a video to the Kensington Palace Instagram page, entitled ’10 years in the making’, Kate said: ‘My early years journey began by meeting people rebuilding their lives from addiction, homelessness and family breakdown’
The launch of the Centre comes one week after the Duchess was joined by the US First Lady Dr Jill Biden on a visit to Connor Downs Academy in Cornwall
Kate previously spoke about her personal interest in the early years during a landmark speech in November after her Five Big Questions on the Under Fives survey garnered over 500,000 responses
Writing in its foreword, Kate said: ‘Our first five years lay important foundations for our future selves. This period is when we first learn to manage our emotions and impulses, to care and to empathise, and thus ultimately to establish healthy relationships with ourselves and others.
‘It is a time when our experience of the world around us, and the way that moulds our development, can have a lifelong impact on our future mental and physical wellbeing. Indeed, what shapes our childhood shapes the adults and the parents we become.’
The report, which has been written in collaboration with The Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University and the London School of Economics, also reveals that the cost of lost opportunity is £16.13 billion per year in England alone.
This is the cost to society of the remedial steps we take to address issues – from children in care to short and long term mental and physical health issues – that might have been avoided through action in early childhood.
Alongside the launch of the Centre and the publication of the report, the Duchess has launched a new website which will help to raise awareness of the importance of early childhood, laying out the scientific, economic and social opportunity for change.
Kate Middleton’s ambitious new initiative will reportedly equal Prince William’s £50million Earthshot Prize (pictured talking with children during a visit to Connor Downs Academy in Hayle, West Cornwall, during the G7 summit)
It will also act as the home for the Centre’s latest research, a showcase for its major initiatives and a platform those who want to delve deeper into early childhood, whether they’re coming to this area for the first time or simply looking to further their understanding.
Chair of The Royal Foundation, Lord Hague said: ‘The launch of the Centre for Early Childhood is a pivotal moment in The Duchess of Cambridge’s work on this critical issue.
‘Her Royal Highness and The Royal Foundation are determined to help bring about lasting change for future generations.
‘The Duchess and the Foundation will aim to bring people together from all corners of the country and all parts of society to help improve early childhoods and ultimately lifelong outcomes.
‘Over the coming years, the Centre will help to create better understanding of the relevant issues, making it clear why the experiences we have in our earliest years are so important – not just to us as individuals but to society at large.’
Last year Kate led a nationwide conversation on the early years through the 5 Big Questions on the Under-Fives survey, which received over 500,000 responses. The findings from that research, combined with further representative research conducted by Ipsos MORI, showed that most people don’t understand the specific importance of early childhood, and revealed that the Covid-19 pandemic had resulted in a dramatic increase in parental loneliness.
Kate previously spoke about her personal interest in the early years during a landmark speech to address the research. ‘People often ask why I care so passionately about the early years,’ she said.
‘Many mistakenly believe that my interest stems from having children of my own. While of course I care hugely about their start in life, this ultimately sells the issue short. If we only expect people to take an interest in the early years when they have children, we are not only too late for them, we are underestimating the huge role others can play in shaping our most formative years, too.’
She added that the early years are not simply just about how we raise our children, but about how we raise ‘the next generation of adults’ and the society we will become.
More than half-a-million people took part in the Royal Foundation’s ‘five big questions on the under-fives’ poll which was carried out by Ipsos MORI and produced the largest-ever response from the public to a survey of its kind (pictured: Kate during a video briefing with Kelly Beaver, managing director of Public Affairs, Ipsos MORI)
New research commissioned by The Royal Foundation and conducted by YouGov, published today – the final day of Loneliness Awareness Week – shows that parents of young children have continued to feel lonelier as the pandemic has continued; with those who always/often feel lonely increasing from nine per cent in October 2020 to 16 per cent in May 2021.
According to royal expert Camilla Tominey, the Daily Telegraph’s royal correspondent, the Duchess knew from the moment that she married Prince William that she wanted to find a philanthropic cause she could champion as impactfully as Princess Diana’s landmine campaign.
Focusing on early years development was born out of her first royal engagements in her role as patron of the charity Action on Addiction, which works with people battling drug and alcohol problems.
In October 2011 the Duchess made a series of under the radar visits to Hope House, a women-only rehabilitation centre in Clapham, south west London.
Rebecca Priestley, who accompanied Kate and worked as her private secretary for five years, said these trips played a pivotal role in her choosing early years of childhood as one of the main pillars of her public role.
She told The Telegraph that meeting the women at Hope House and finding out that their ‘derailing’ which drove them to turn to drugs and alcohol abuse had happened early on in their lives stuck with the Duchess.
Further visits to Clouds House, a treatment centre in East Knoyle in Wiltshire, and the detox unit of Send Prison in Woking, where she met female inmates, brought about a ‘profoundly powerful’ realisation, according to Priestley.
‘You go in there with this preconceived idea that these women have done things wrong, that it was their fault. Then one woman started speaking to the Duchess about her earliest memories of seeing needles on the floor of her home,’ she recalled.
‘[Kate] had always thought addiction was a misunderstood issue, but after this, she became concerned that there was a pre-destiny about those affected – an inevitability about it. These women were born into it and there was very little chance of escape.’
Emphasising the long-term nature of her work during her keynote speech last year, Kate underlined the importance of early childhood in shaping the rest of our lives and broader societal outcomes, saying: ‘It is a brave thing to believe in an outcome – in a world even – that might not be fully felt for a generation or more.
‘But what you do isn’t for the quick win – it is for the big win. It is for a happier, healthier society as well as happier, healthier children.’
According to royal expert Camilla Tominey, the Daily Telegraph’s royal correspondent, the Duchess (pictured during the G7 summit this month) knew from the moment that she married Prince William that she wanted to find a philanthropic cause she could champion as impactfully as Princess Diana’s landmine campaign
The Duchess and Dr Jill Biden visited the Connor Downs Academy school’s Reception Class to hear how its pupils are supported through a bespoke Early Years Foundation Stage curriculum before hosting a roundtable on the importance of early childhood, attended by experts from the UK and the USA
In 2018 Kate created a steering group to investigate the link between childhood experiences and adult behaviour and hopes that the results of their survey and other research will encourage a ‘nationwide conversation’ on the subject, raising awareness of how the first five years of a child’s life will impact the next 50 years.
Eamon McCrory, Professor of Developmental Neuroscience and Psychopathology at University College London, told The Telegraph there is no question that this is a lifetime of work for Kate, but it is now entering a more ‘proactive’ phase.
A royal insider added that the Duchess ‘genuinely cares’ and wants to do her very best to get it right, both for the Firm and Prince William, but also out of respect for the importance of the work she’s undertaking.
Lord Hague told the publication that Kate believes this is one of the ‘greatest issues of our time’ and is a ‘central plank of her work in the way conservation issues are for the Duke’.