The Early Years Rapid Action Lab is a bold new initiative bringing together parents, professionals, educators, local representatives and funders to work together and take action to address priority needs for children under 5 in Oxford. The Lab was designed to increase the quality and quantity of universal provision for children under 5 and their families in Oxford City. Participants in the Lab focused on supporting Oxford’s regeneration areas, where social mobility is less prevalent, and strengthening the network of Early Years professionals and venues across the city.
This work was a direct response to the changing landscape of Early Years provision and the Social Mobility State of the Nation Report identifying Oxford City as a particular ‘cold spot’ of social mobility, ranking 19th from the bottom amongst over 200 local authorities. Some of the causes of this social mobility challenge are structural and rooted in national policy decisions. However, there is encouraging evidence that policies and initiatives by local authorities can influence these deprivation outcomes, and effectively tackle place-based inequality.
During the course of the first cycle of the Oxford Early Years Rapid Action Lab, participants worked together to develop a shared understanding of the challenges facing children in Oxford. We built this understanding by dialoguing with each other, learning from community leaders and visiting organisations in the community. Together, we came up with a number of ideas for how to address priority needs for Oxford’s children. Over the course of the six months, we tested five ideas, through an approach known as “prototyping.” This involved small teams designing and launching an initial version of their idea to determine its impact in supporting children under 5 and their families. This work was supported by an Innovation Fund of £25,000 provided by Oxford City Council, which enabled participants to test their ideas.
This evaluation reviews the work of the first cycle of the Early Years Rapid Action Lab, delivered through a partnership between Oxford City Council, Oxford Hub, Roller strategies, Oxfordshire County Council, Early Years professionals, and parents, which took place between June and December 2018.