The impact of COVID-19 on the home learning environment

12 Aug 2020
Communities

Melanie Crew, our Evidence and Policy Manager, explores the importance of community-led approaches in supporting young children and families most affected by COVID-19.

During the coronavirus pandemic, many community organisations and local volunteers have been coming together to support people most in need.

With Office for National Statistics research showing an increase in community spirit, it’s clear that many people have been connecting and looking out for others more than usual.

A recent report from Locality also found that community organisations have been playing a key role throughout the crisis. Whether it’s delivering emergency support or supplies, supporting isolated groups or finding creative ways to keep communities together, local organisations have been quick to adapt their services and link up with others.

The Hungry Little Minds campaign is a good example of this. The campaign aims to help parents understand that they can have a big impact on their child’s learning and that chatting, playing and reading with their child every day can help them develop. The National Literacy Trust has been supporting the partners who are delivering the campaign across six areas of the country (The Wirral, North Yorkshire Coast, Middlesbrough, Newcastle, Croydon and Cornwall).

With the closure of many early years settings, the delivery partners have been finding new ways of helping the most disadvantaged parents to support their children’s learning at home. From working with food banks, women’s refuges and children’s centres to deliver books and activity packs to families, to sharing tips and ideas of how to create a good home learning environment on social media, they have been adapting their services to support local parents.

Community organisations often have strong local networks and a good understanding of local needs. This means that when a crisis arises they are able to identify the people who are most vulnerable and the organisations that may be able to offer support.

This local way of working, in which community organisations work closely with public and private sector organisations to address local issues and adapt services to what local people want and need, is known as a ‘place-based approach’. Place-based approaches have been around for many years, and often aim to tackle poverty and disadvantage.

Place-based approaches are tailored to specific areas, based on the fact that different areas have different needs and national top-down approaches may not always be effective in addressing them. They also aim to help people deal with multiple challenges by bringing different services and programmes together to provide a more coordinated response, rather than asking people to seek help from numerous different sources.

The National Literacy Trust’s recent literature review on place-based working found that place-based programmes can help families to engage more with support services by addressing their unique needs and responding to their individual circumstances.

With the COVID-19 crisis continuing to unfold, there is likely to be an unprecedented demand for support to tackle a range of issues exacerbated by the pandemic, from educational inequality and unemployment to poor mental health. Place-based, community-led approaches will be more important than ever in helping families deal with these challenges.

Find out more about the National Literacy Trust’s place-based approach to raising literacy levels.