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Research & evidence on early child development

Better Start Bradford is an evidence-led programme, developed according to research into what works in supporting expectant families and families with children under four. Each of our 20-plus projects has been selected based on existing evidence on their effectiveness, or because they can help improve our understanding of what works.

A key part of the Better Start Bradford programme is undertaking continuous and thorough evaluation of the impact our projects are having. This will help deliver lasting benefit for families in our part of Bradford, but also to share lessons more widely. A national evaluation is looking at the impact across all five ‘A Better Start’ locations. A local evaluation led by Better Start Bradford’s Innovation Hub will look at the programme’s impact within local communities.

This page gives an overview of the research and reviews that Better Start Bradford has drawn on, plus our planned evaluation work.

Born in Bradford’s Better Start (BiBBS)

The Better Start Bradford Innovation Hub is a partnership between Better Start Bradford and Born in Bradford. It brings together leading researchers from the Universities of York, Bradford, Leeds and Leeds Beckett, to provide a centre for evaluation of the programme. The team are using their expertise to establish how Better Start Bradford’s projects make a difference to local families.

One of the key ways the Innovation Hub assesses the impact of Better Start Bradford projects is through the Born in Bradford’s Better Start (BiBBS) study. Over five years, the Innovation Hub will recruit 5,000 mums and their babies and partners in the Better Start Bradford area. It is thought to be the world’s first ‘experimental’ birth cohort study. By linking data that is routinely collected about these families as their children grow, the Innovation Hub will consider how Better Start Bradford influences their development, health and wellbeing.

Find out more:
Read about progress so far on the BiBBS website

A guide for designing, implementing and evaluating projects

The Better Start Bradford Innovation Hub and Better Start Bradford have developed a series of practical operational guides to support organisations through the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of projects. The guides include different tools to aid the successful delivery, monitoring and evaluation of projects.

These guides have been designed so that you can pick and choose which elements and tools are most relevant to you, and each guide should be viewed as support to a particular stage of the process:

  1. The Service Design: An Operational Guide is for those who are designing or planning the implementation of a project.
  2. The Implementation and Monitoring Toolkit is for those who want to monitor and review performance of a project that is ready to start or is already up and running.
  3. The BSBIH Evaluation Framework is for those who are interested in understanding more about evaluation options for a project.

Download the guides

The national evaluation

The evaluation and learning for the national A Better Start programme, spanning five sites including Bradford, is being delivered by the Warwick Consortium, a team bringing together leading universities and research organisations led by Warwick University.

Called the ‘You and Your Child’ study, the evaluation of A Better Start involves:

  • Implementation evaluation of the setup and delivery of the programmes
  • Impact and economic evaluation of the programmes
  • Learning and dissemination from lessons learnt from the programmes.

Find out more:
About the You and Your Child Study
Meet the Warwick Consortium’s team

Research on getting children off to a better start

We aim to help families get children off to the best possible start, delivering a wide and lasting benefit to society. Our work aligns with several major national reviews, … read more.


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Research on

social and emotional development

Studies have shown the importance of relationships and bonding to the healthy development of babies and young children. These relationships can have a lasting impact on a child’s outlook, and how they view the world around them. At least one loving, sensitive and responsive relationship with a parent or carer teaches the baby to believe that the world is a good place and reduces the risk of them facing disruptive issues in later life. The right support can help families develop these strong relationships and overcome any difficulties they face in bonding with their baby.
Key sources of evidence on this topic:

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Research on

health and nutrition

A crucial part of getting children off to the best possible start in life is providing a healthy diet and lifestyle. It helps support their physical development and emotional wellbeing, and has a lasting impact on their health later in life. All parents want to ensure their children are healthy, but they don’t always have the right information and support to help them do this. In Bradford, there are many health inequalities, with some children not getting the balanced diet and active lifestyles they need.

Key sources of evidence on this topic:

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Research on

language and communication

Language and communication is crucial to babies and young children forming strong relationships, engaging socially, and being ready to get off to a good start at school.

Some sources of evidence from leading experts we’re working with:

If you’re in our part of Bradford...

You can also get involved with our 20+ projects or attend our events or training, to access info, ideas and activities for pregnant parents and families with children under four.