On the first day of the G7 summit in Cornwall, UCL Professor Eamon McCrory spoke with Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cambridge and the First Lady of the United States Dr Jill Biden at a roundtable about early years education.
Professor McCrory presented scientific evidence of the importance of early childhood for lifelong outcomes to a small group which also included Dr Trudi Seneviratne, registrar at the Royal College of Psychiatrists, Ed Vainker, CEO of Reach Foundation and Owen Thomas, head of programmes at Future Men.
Professor McCrory (UCL Psychology & Language Sciences) said: "I was delighted and truly honoured to meet with The Duchess of Cambridge and Dr Jill Biden during the first day of the G7 summit. Both have shown exceptional commitment to improving the care and support for children and parents in their own work.
"We know that the first five years of life can have a profound impact on long term outcomes, including on physical and mental health and educational attainment. This was a unique opportunity to highlight for a global audience the critical importance of developmental and neuroscience research and its potential to significantly improve the lives of children and their families."
Professor McCrory has already been working with The Duchess, having last year released findings of the biggest ever UK study on the early years, revealing what the UK thinks about the early years.* The Royal Foundation led the study and Professor McCrory was on the steering group.
The roundtable, where the group discussed both the importance of early childhood as well as what could be done to make a difference, followed on from a visit to Connor Downs Academy in Hayle, West Cornwall.
Alongside the six roundtable participants, experts from the US also participated via video link: Miriam Calderon, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Early Learning at the US Department of Education; Miranda Lynch Smith, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Human Services Policy, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation, US Department of Health and Human Services; andáKatie Hamm, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Early Childhood Development, Administration for Children and Families, Department of Health and Human Services.
The importance of providing adequate support for parents and children alike during early childhood, and the positive impact that this can have across society, is something which Her Royal Highness and The First Lady have both gained an understanding of through their respective work.
For over 10 years, The Duchess of Cambridge has seen first-hand how the root cause of so many of today’s hardest social challenges - from poor mental health and addiction to family breakdown and homelessness - can be traced right back to the earliest years of life. In that time, she has worked with experts and spent time listening to the sector, parents, families and carers about their experience of and work on the early years. Next week, The Duchess will step up her work in this area, with a major announcement outlining how she will elevate the importance of early childhood and continue the conversation on this vital issue.
Through her years as an English professor and former high school teacher and reading specialist, Dr Biden has witnessed the struggle of students who lacked a solid foundation of early childhood care and education. She, along with President Biden, are committed to increasing opportunities for all children and young people to grow, learn, and gain the skills they need to succeed.
Professor McCrory is a Co-Director of the UCL Developmental Risk & Resilience Unit. As a researcher, he uses brain imaging to investigate changes in brain structure and function in children following early adversity. This work is providing important clues as to how vulnerability, particularly to mental health problems, can emerge across the lifespan. As a clinician, he is very interested in how this knowledge can improve the ways in which we can help children and families in the early years. The long-term goal is to move to towards a preventative model of help, where mental health problems are prevented before they emerge.
Tel: +44 (0)20 7679 9222
Email: chris.lane [at] ucl.ac.uk