Sixty early years childcare settings in Southampton awarded Healthy Early Years Award (HEYA)

Across Southampton 60 nurseries, childminders, pre-schools and maintained early years settings have achieved and/or are currently working towards a Healthy Early Years Award (HEYA)

HEYA certificate holders at EYC conference 2022-3

The award, which is a quality assured programme developed by Southampton City Council’s Early Years’ Service and Public Health team, reflects the dedication to ensuring the children they look after, and their families, are educated in healthy nutrition, physical activity and oral health to promote wellbeing and a good start in life.

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic and the challenges childcare settings faced, 39 awards have been achieved across the city in the past two years. These awards were recognised and celebrated at a recent Early Years Conference titled ‘Awe and Wonder’ which celebrated the work of the city’s childminders and early years practitioners from nurseries, pre-schools to Year R.

With many families living in areas of deprivation and the current climate of financial concern, the situation in Southampton is worsening; the health and wellbeing of all residents is a priority with the consequence of ill health and obesity being a major concern. The HEYA programme was introduced in 2009, before any national standards for healthy eating in children’s early years and was revamped in 2017 to make it more accessible for settings to engage. Participation in the award helps early years settings provide a healthier environment for children in their care, helps families to make positive choices and provides practical support for early years practitioners.

The awards consider the health consequences of obesity and encourages and supports children and families to make healthy choices though physical activity, nutrition and oral health. Of the 39 awards achieved between 2020 and 2022, 22 were bronze, 16 silver and one gold which was achieved by St James Nursery and Pre-school. Owner Tash Li said of the award:

“We are very proud to have achieved our gold Healthy Early Years Award and can see the impact it has on our children, families and staff team.

“Our parents can see that we provide healthy, tasty and nutritious meals and have embedded healthy living into our setting. We have a tooth-brushing programme within the nursery and help all our parents have an NHS dentist within the city.

“We have very strong practice with physical activities, having a wake and shake each morning, as well as 'music and movement' and outside activities. We work in close partnership with St James Park and our children experience additional sports and exercise on our outings. We also have a sports day, tennis coaching and a race for life to name just a few! Through our curriculum, we encourage our children to have a strong sense of themselves and have a love for learning. We are also pleased to be piloting the new HEYA Mental Health and Wellbeing award this term.”

Dr Debbie Chase, Director of Public Health at Southampton City Council, attended the recent Early Years Conference, which not only celebrated the HEYA awards but also the brilliant work the city’s early years settings put in to support children and families during the pandemic and commented:

“It was great to see so many early years providers and childminders at the recent conference. I am very grateful for all their work in keeping our children and families as safe as possible during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“‘Awe and wonder’ was the perfect theme for the day as we continue to help children explore, learn and grow in the magical time of childhood! To make this happen, children need a healthy start in life and the Healthy Early Years Award is presented to local childcare settings that champion this. I am very proud that 39 awards have been achieved since 2020, that is an amazing achievement given the circumstances. It is also testament to the dedication and commitment early years providers and childminders have to providing children with that essential healthy start. I look forward to celebrating more healthy early years awards in the future.”

This year a bronze mental health and wellbeing award has been developed as part of the HEYA programme and is currently being piloted by five early years settings. The award focuses on the mental health and wellbeing of children, staff and families, ensuring that policy and practice supports the mental health and wellbeing of all. Getting everyone to focus on wellbeing has never been more of a priority as the effects of the pandemic continue to become apparent. The award will be rolled out in the autumn term 2022.

To find out more about the awards visit Healthy Early Years Award (HEYA).