In the second of a two-part interview, Anna-Louise Van De Merwe, national director of the Foundation Years Trust, explains how her small charity has moved quickly to adapt to the lockdown.
We’ve been reaching a lot of families,” says Anna-Louise. “One of the videos we made got over 2,000 views. We had already got a small but solid following online and that seems to have really ramped up. One way we are maximising this locally is by combining online timetables with the Children’s Centres My Child Can campaign and with other early years partners – so parents have one source to go to and a choice of easily accessible activities online. The coordination across the borough is key.”
It is a relief for Anna-Louise and her small team. “There was a massive fear from us at the beginning – what if nobody engages? It was a big possibility.
“We genuinely had no idea whether we were going to reach people because everyone in education has moved online. There is so much noise out there. As a parent I struggle to know where to go, where to look next.
“Bigger organisations are putting out so much glossy material at present, which is great, but it is a lot of pressure for parents and they may not know where to look.
“What we’ve quickly come to realise is that the families we are working with are less likely to engage with national-level initiatives. As a small local charity with a local reputation, we’re better placed to provide support because we’re already a trusted source.
“Our approach to the home-learning environment is all to do with play and interaction and developing learning through those everyday opportunities. It has never been more important than now, so our challenge is to make sure that we maintain and build that following.
“Because our reach has extended so dramatically through the work we’re doing online, when we are in a position to actually start coming back to some sort of normality, we’ve got relationships there that we can tap into and much more easily encourage people towards groups.”