Duchess of Cambridge launches Royal Foundation Centre for Early Childhood

Angelica Celinska
Friday, June 18, 2021

The Royal Foundation for Early Childhood is set to raise awareness of and action around the impact of the early years.

Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton

Duchess of Cambridge 

Since undertaking her royal duties ten years ago, the Duchess of Cambridge has been working to understand those who are rebuilding their lives from challenges such as alcoholism, homelessness and violence. From her work with these individuals the Duchess came to understand how vital early childhood was in preventing today's toughest social challenges. 

'I’ve spoken to psychiatrists and neuroscientists, to practitioners and academics and parents alike, and what has become clear is that the best investment for our future health and happiness is in the first five years of life. 

And that is why today I am launching the Royal Foundation Centre for Early Childhood. Working closely with others, the Centre hopes to raise awareness of why the first five years of life are just so important for our future life outcomes, and what we can do as a society to embrace this golden opportunity to create a happier, more mentally healthy, more nurturing society. By working together, my hope is that we can change the way we think about early childhood, and transform lives for generations to come. Because I truly believe big change starts small,' Duchess of Cambridge. 



The Royal Foundation Centre for Early Childhood will focus on three key areas:


  • Promoting and commissioning high-quality research to increase knowledge and share best practice
  • Working with people from across the private, public and voluntary sectors to collaborate on new solutions.
  • Developing creative campaigns to raise awareness and inspire action, driving real, positive change on the early years.


Big Change Starts Small


Coinciding with the launch, the Centre has published its inaugural report: Big Change Starts Small. This collates leading sector research in one place, underlining the critical lifelong impact of the early years on individuals, our economy and society at large.

In the foreword of the report, The Duchess of Cambridge 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.' 

We aim to change the way people think about early childhood — and this report is our first step. We will help to make change through fresh research to identify opportunities, collaborations to scale solutions and creative campaigns to bring this issue to life.' 


Comments from sector representatives


Commenting, Early Years Alliance chief executive Neil Leitch said:
'We warmly welcome the launch of The Royal Foundation Centre for Early Childhood, and its focus on increasing awareness of the huge importance of the early years.
We know that the first five years of a child's life are absolutely pivotal to their learning, development and life chances - and yet, for many years now, the early years sector in this country has been overlooked, undervalued and underfunded. As such, we very much look forward to working with the new Centre and sharing not only our own knowledge and expertise, but that of our thousands of members as well.
We hope that the active role that the Duchess of Cambridge is taking in raising the profile of the early years will help act as a catalyst for change in the way that our sector is viewed and treated. Perhaps, for those in power, the message that the early years matters will finally start to get through.'


Purnima Tanuku OBE, Chief Executive of NDNA said:

'This is an exciting and important initiative for the early years sector. All of us involved in working with our youngest children know and value the importance of getting their early years right.

It’s important that we see early years as a crucial part of our national infrastructure. With everything our children have missed out on during the pandemic, it’s even more important that we focus on their development and learning. Evidence shows that the earlier we invest in our children the more impact we can have on their lives and future opportunities.

Any parent knows how important their child’s key worker is at nursery. A well-trained, experienced and properly rewarded workforce has the biggest impact on children’s development and learning outcomes. We have always backed a research and evidenced based approach to ensuring best practice in early years.

We’re delighted to see the work of the Duchess of Cambridge further support this and we will continue to promote the importance of early years for children, families and society as a whole.'


June O’Sullivan MBE and CEO of charitable social enterprise, London Early Years Foundation (LEYF) which operates 42 nurseries across London said:

'There’s no question that an individual’s experience in early childhood has a significant and long-lasting impact on their future health and wellbeing which is why this new report by The Royal Foundation’s Centre for Early Childhood is so pertinent. However, over the past decade the Government has repeatedly underfunded the sector driving childcare costs up and quality down.

If we are to achieve a greater focus on early childhood development that drives real, positive change for our society then, as a sector, we need full recognition. This must include increasing knowledge of why the Early Years matter in supporting a child’s healthy development but also supporting the workforce better so they feel more valued, recognised and equipped to be the best professionals they can be.'

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