The Duchess of Cambridge will on Wednesday launch a landmark survey on early childhood which she hopes will trigger “lasting change for generations to come”.
Expressing hopes the poll would “spark the biggest ever conversation on early childhood,” the Duchess said she hoped to prevent children facing mental health battles in later life, by helping them before they turn five.
The project represents the culmination of eight years of work by the Duchess, as she stressed a child's early years were “fundamentally the most important” and played a crucial role in the developing brain.
"They help us avoid adversity, or certainly build resilience to adversity in later life and prevent challenges with mental health later down the line," she said.
“The Early Years are more crucial for future health and happiness than any other moment in our lifetime.”
The Duchess, 38, has been quietly working on the subject since her marriage, dedicating the vast majority of her public and private engagements to early years provision.
She believes that many of the hardest social challenges facing society can often be traced back to experiences in early childhood and has successfully made it her niche, viewing it as a lifelong project with which she can make a tangible difference.
While the Duke and Duchess of Sussex embarked on their new lives in Canada, the Duchess signalled that it was back to business as usual with a 24-hour tour of the country.
The mother-of-three will visit London, Cardiff and Surrey to raise awareness of the poll, Five Big Questions on the Under Fives, thought to be the largest of its kind in the UK.
The survey will be conducted by Ipsos MORI on behalf of The Royal Foundation. It will be online for a month and is designed to recognise that “everyone has a role” in building the foundations of childhood that have a lifelong effect.
The results will be revealed in March and will determine the Duchess’s next steps.
The Duchess said that as a mother, she had gained a different perspective on the challenges faced in the early years.
She added: "There’s so much pressure on parents to feel the responsibility is just down to them but actually it’s important to work together as a community.
"I want to hear the key issues affecting our families and communities so I can focus my work on where it is needed most.”
The whistlestop tour began with a visit to MiniBrum, an interactive, child-sized mini-city at Thinktank, Birmingham’s science museum, where the Duchess was greeted by eight-year-old Poppy Jordan, the town’s “mini mayor”.
Children from Henley Montessori School and St Paul’s Nursery in Balsall Heath, showed their royal visitor around, starting at the workshop, before popping into the laundrette, a shop, a cafe and a mini-museum.
There was a minor calamity in the cafe when the door of a cupboard underneath a sink came off its hinges, prompting laughter. “I think we’ve broken the cafe,” she laughed.
The survey reflects the results of conversations the Duchess has had with families, experts and academics across the country as she heard about the issues they deal with day-to-day.
In May 2018, she convened a steering group to focus on how to help families tackle anti-social behaviour, addiction and mental health, which has played an instrumental role is compiling the survey.
One of its members, David Holmes CBE, chief executive of Family Action, of which the Duchess is patron, said: “Every parent, carer and family wants the best for their child and raising the profile of the vital early years in a child’s life is work of national importance.
“The insight this survey will give the early years sector valuable direction in designing and delivering services and support which reflect what matters most to people.”
Tomorrow, the Duchess will join parents at London Early Years Foundation (LEYF) nursery in Southwark, central London, for the nursery drop off, before helping nursery workers serve breakfast to the children, highlighting the importance of nutritious food to a child’s development.
She will then travel to Cardiff to attend a baby sensory class at the Ely and Careau Children’s Centre where she will hear about the support that parents receive.
Kate Stanley, director of strategy for the NSPCC, said: “It’s fantastic to see The Duchess of Cambridge launch this survey. The results will provide fascinating insight into how we think about the early years and it will be a vital source of information for the sector.”
Kelly Beaver of Ipsos MORI said: “Whilst many studies have been conducted to generate evidence of the importance of the early years, there is a real lack of evidence to understand whether this is understood by the British public, or which bring to life how it feels to be a parent of an under 5 in the UK today – the division of roles and responsibilities and the aspirations for the youngest in our society.
“The Five Big Questions is a fantastic way for the British public to share their views about the importance of the early years.”