There is a large variation in the architecture of human brains. This means that some children have different needs to ‘the average’ because of ‘neurodiversity’. There is overwhelming evidence to show that early identification of neurodiversity has immense benefits to children, families and service providers. Unfortunately, many children do not have their needs identified until late in their schooling. For example, undiagnosed autism is known to create numerous problems that could be avoided through early action. CAER is developing new tools to ensure health and education systems provide earlier support for neurodiversity and is pioneering new approaches to autism.
The first five years of life is a critical phase in development and lays the foundations for education and future physical and mental health. Unfortunately, some children are exposed to adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and this can negatively impact their future life path. CAER aims to better understand how we can prevent ACEs and mitigate their impact. Our work aims to ensure that all children are ‘school ready’ so they can benefit maximally from their schooling. We work to help families and communities provide the rich and stimulating experiences known to assist healthy development.
CAER brings schools together with industry, policymakers, universities, cultural organisations, and the NHS to learn how to transform digital education for young people. CAER adopts a whole-system place-based approach to ensuring the next generation of school leavers are digitally literate. Our scientists are establishing what works, where, and who it works for in digital education. Our approach explores how we can provide digital skills that empower young people to gain employment (with the accompanying long-term benefits to physical and mental health) across all sectors and domains – including the arts and creative industries.
Children’s language and cognitive abilities underpin every aspect of learning and education. There are many ways in which cognitive function is vital to learning: children need to pay attention, inhibit irrelevant information, hold relevant information in mind whilst completing the task-at-hand (working memory), and retrieve information from long-term memory. Language is also essential to learning: most learning is accessed through language, and oral language is the foundation for reading comprehension. Lower cognitive abilities and language difficulties are associated with a range of poor education outcomes in both the short- and long-term. This makes it particularly important to identify and support children who show deficits in cognition and language. CAER supports projects that improve our understanding of cognitive and language development, and how we can best help children to achieve their full learning potential.
The physical wellbeing of our young people is a barometer of the health of our society. Efforts to ‘level up’ society must be centred on CYP and stop the conveyor belt of inequality that creates an adult population increasingly suffering physical and mental ill health. CAER is an advocate for public policies that address childhood health inequalities, and act early to identify risk and mitigate adversity with meaningful interventions. CAER brings partners together across health, education, and social care systems to remove health barriers to education, support children experiencing medical difficulties, and tackle the upstream determinants of ill health.
Children are significantly more likely to face multiple challenges where inequality is greatest. Our systems need connected front-line professionals empowered to share information and identify risks earlier. Our commissioners need to understand the patterns of vulnerability experienced by families. Our policymakers need to define effective practice. The Integrated Data Analytics Unit (IDAU) includes scientists, local health, care, and education service analysts, professionals and commissioners together with public and community organisations. The IDAU supports local and national policymakers through the development of data tools that reveal the different factors that impact children’s lives and can help tailor more effective service delivery.
CAER aims to decrease the mental ill health epidemic affecting our children and young people. We adopt a whole system approach to supporting the emotional wellbeing of children and co-produce the research with all stakeholders. CAER tests evidence-based approaches that schools can adopt in partnership with health service provider to deal with the long term social and emotional wellbeing of their children. CAER offers unique infrastructure (as an Opportunity and Integration Area and Mental Health trailblazing site containing a longitudinal birth cohort project) that allows rapid implementation and evaluation of promising mental health interventions.