Monday, 30 January 2023

The Princess of Wales Delivers First Speech in New Role Ahead of Early Years Campaign Launch

Ahead of the launch of Kate's early years campaign tomorrow, the Prince and Princess of Wales stepped out for a glamorous pre-campaign engagement hosted by the Royal Foundation at BAFTA, London.

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The event kicks off what is expected to be a busy week filled with engagements and appearances to mark the unveiling of 'Shaping Us'. Tomorrow, Kate will share her plans against the backdrop of long-scheduled visits highlighting the importance of a child's first five years. It has been reported a host of influential figures from media, music and sport will join the Princess, with social media considered a key element of the campaign. 

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On the grapevine, there's a growing rumour Kate recorded a podcast episode with Giovanna Fletcher (with whom she spoke during 5 Big Questions) and presenter and author Fearne Cotton. Both ladies were present tonight.

Kate with Fearne.

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Shaping Us was revealed on Saturday night. In an open letter, the Princess wrote: "During our very early childhood, our brains develop at an amazing rate – faster than at any other time. Our experiences, relationships, and surroundings at that young age, shape the rest of our lives. It is a time where we lay the foundations and building blocks for life. It is when we learn to understand ourselves, understand others and understand the world in which we live. But as a society, we currently spend much more of our time and energy on later life. I am absolutely determined that this long-term campaign is going to change that. It will start by highlighting how we develop during early childhood and why these years matter so much in terms of shaping who we become.

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"We all need to know the critical importance of our early childhood. They really are years like no other in our lives. I urge everyone reading this, to take the opportunity to learn more about this incredible time of life, to think back to your own childhood and how it shaped you, and most importantly, to ask yourselves what you can do to make the world a more supportive and loving place for our children. Because healthy, happy children shape a healthy, happy future."

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Presenter and former member of popular UK girl band the Saturdays delivered a speech. Other familiar faces included Professor Green and England football captain Leah Williamson. 

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The evening was compered by Kate Silverton and a Q&A session took place between Eamon McCrory, Professor of Developmental Neuroscience and Psychopathology, University College London, and Dr Guddi Singh, a paediatrician and campaigner.

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The Independent reports:

'Rochelle Humes brought her nine-year-old daughter Alaina Mai Humes to the event and joked the youngster had said about Kate: “She’s got the best hair.”

Humes spoke about her childhood being brought up by just her mother, and ended her speech by saying: “Everyone in society needs the very best for every child, because if every child realises their full potential we’ll have a society that is infinitely better off than the one we have today.”

The campaign film was screened at the event.

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Kate delivered her first speech in her role as Princess of Wales.

The Princess outlinined the goal for Shaping Us: "The campaign is fundamentally about shining a spotlight on the critical importance of early childhood and how it shapes the adults we become. During this time we lay the foundations and building blocks for life. And it is when we learn to understand ourselves, understand others and understand the world in which we live."

Kate's speech in its entirety:

'This week sees the launch of our new awareness raising campaign, Shaping Us. The campaign is fundamentally about shining a spotlight on the critical importance of early childhood and how it shapes the adults we become.

During this time we lay the foundations and building blocks for life. It is when we learn to understand ourselves, understand others and understand the world in which we live. This is why it is essential, to not only understand the unique importance of our earliest years, but to know what we can all do to help raise future generations of happy, healthy adults.

Shaping Us is a long-term campaign, and we’re starting by highlighting how we develop during early childhood and why these years matter so much in terms of shaping who we become. As the campaign progresses, we will explore in more depth the importance of a child’s social and emotional world, the significance of relationships, and the impact of the surroundings and experiences a child is exposed to during these formative years. Together these play a key role in shaping our future lives. Yet they rarely get as much focus as our physical health and cognitive development.

And of course, by understanding our own childhoods – what has shaped our own beliefs, relationships, behaviours and feelings – we, as adults, are better placed to play our part in positively shaping future generations.

Those involved in raising children today need the very best of information and support in helping to achieve this mission – and this campaign aims to help do that too.

I want to say a huge and heartfelt thank you to so many of you in this room, for your ongoing work in this area. Thank you for the years of dedication and your unfailing determination to advocate for and improve the lives of the very youngest members of our society.

And thank you also to many of you in this room this evening, for your personal support to me in helping me develop my thinking and work on this issue over the years. As you all know, by building a supportive, nurturing world around children and those caring for them, we can make a huge difference to generations to come.

Because fundamentally healthy, happy children shape a healthy, happy future'.

Prince William is President of BAFTA, and their glamorous Central London location offered an elegant backdrop for the occasion.

More on the building's background:

'Housed in an historic Grade II Listed building in the heart of London’s West End, BAFTA 195 Piccadilly is a truly world-class space, providing innovative state-of-the-art facilities for all event needs, whether live, virtual or hybrid.

No stranger to red carpet glamour and making dreams become a reality, the five floors of BAFTA 195 Piccadilly offer 1,600 square metres of incredible, flexible, creative spaces; presenting a spectacular way to wow guests.'

The Princess Anne Theatre is considered one of the "most technologically advanced screening facilities in the world", boasting a commanding stage, luxurious armchair style seating, ample leg room, comfort cooling temperature controlled air conditioning and perfect sightlines from every seat.

Red is a fantastic colour on Kate. I've been waiting for her to debut a red trouser suit and tonight was the perfect occasion for it. For such an important event, the Princess turned to Alexander McQueen for the appropriately 'Welsh Red' ensemble. Kate sported McQueen's Leaf Crepe Drop Hem blazer. The piece is finished with a single button fastening.

With thanks to UFO No More, the blazer is teamed with McQueen's Narrow Bootcut Trousers, which feature side pockets and a back jet pocket. The sharply tailored look is available at My Theresa.

Kate wore her fabulous statement CHALK earrings. The Florence style is available for £75.

More from the product description:

'Ornate obsession overload. The Florence Earrings are inspired by the auditorium ceiling of the Royal Opera House in Central London. A beautiful neutral pair with gold, bronze and regency green tones.

Chalk Jewelry, by architect Malaika Carr creates unusual, geometric, jewelry all handmade by Malaika in her London based studio. Chalk's collections are influenced by architectural elements, everyday objects and bold colorful, cultural patterns. Materials are sourced from small UK based shops.'

It looks like Kate wore her red suede Gianvito Rossi pumps.

I'll see you tomorrow!

Sunday, 29 January 2023

The Princess of Wales Shares First Glimpse of "Major New Awareness Campaign"

The Princess of Wales offered the first glimpses into her new early years project tonight. Entitled 'Shaping Us', Kate released an open letter revealing she is "delighted" to share news the Royal Foundation Centre for Early Childhood will launch a "major new awareness campaign" highlighting the "critical importance" of a child's first five years.

The Princess continued: "During our very early childhood, our brains develop at an amazing rate – faster than at any other time. Our experiences, relationships, and surroundings at that young age, shape the rest of our lives.It is a time where we lay the foundations and building blocks for life. It is when we learn to understand ourselves, understand others and understand the world in which we live. But as a society, we currently spend much more of our time and energy on later life. I am absolutely determined that this long-term campaign is going to change that. It will start by highlighting how we develop during early childhood and why these years matter so much in terms of shaping who we become. I will be joined by a remarkable group of experts spanning science, research, policy making and front-line practice as well as an exciting group of well-known faces from music, sport and television, to show all of us, why it is in all of our interests to care about this.

"We all need to know the critical importance of our early childhood. They really are years like no other in our lives. I urge everyone reading this, to take the opportunity to learn more about this incredible time of life, to think back to your own childhood and how it shaped you, and most importantly, to ask yourselves what you can do to make the world a more supportive and loving place for our children. Because healthy, happy children shape a healthy, happy future."

The Telegraph reports: "The details are set to be released on Tuesday and she is expected to be highly visible with a series of engagements throughout the week to raise the public’s awareness of the cause". Tonight's announcement was accompanied with two lovely new photos of the Princess visiting a school in London's Bethnal Green and a new clip shared by Kensington Palace's social media accounts. I expect we'll see more in the form of a video or on social media to coincide with the launch. In fact, the Mail on Sunday reports a central theme of the campaign will be "eye-catching videos and social media messages." It's understood Kate will be joined by celebrities and leading figures in sport and media.

Kate wore a green pussybow blouse and her Alia hoops in the new photographs.

In recent days, a number of you have been sharing interesting thoughts on the early years sector and possible directions for Kate's centre. I wanted to offer a little background and touch on the delicate issue of government intervention.

Whilst members of the Royal family are expected to remain entirely apolitical, the causes senior royals support (and subsequent efforts to drive them forward) can and do meet an impasse due to the government of the day's position. A prime example of this was the King's determination over the decades to move the conversation on climate change from words to action. The thorny issue is the reality No 10 is simply not sufficiently investing in early years or in supporting young families adequately. This is especially critical against the backdrop of the cost of living crisis.

Neil Leitch, the chief executive of the Early Years Alliance recently spoke to the Guardian about the negative impact inflation is having on early years care: "We know that early years providers are deeply committed to providing high-quality education to our youngest children, as well as the childcare that many parents rely on – but this alone isn’t enough to pay the bills and keep the doors open. The fact is that the early years funding system in this country is broken and the way in which the government views and treats our vital sector needs an urgent rethink before it completely implodes."

The situation is exacerbated by the fact educators and staff caring for children under five are underpaid and undervalued. I read a BBC article earlier this month about how a nursery in Bath, which multiple families in the area were dependent on, had to close because they could not secure properly trained staff. The nursery director Amy Parfitt said: "People are leaving the industry altogether; there are other flexible work options which we can't have in early years settings. As well as that, other industries are better paid unfortunately because we don't get the support we need from the government with the funding." It is one example of a developing crisis in the sector whereby children are losing their familiar surroundings, friends and nursery staff who have become part of their daily lives. That in itself is deeply upsetting for a child -- the sudden uprooting to a new location. Children are entitled to the highest standards of care, but this is only achievable if those in the profession are treated with the dignity they deserve.

Only in the past week, the Times Education Supplement revealed results of research which found: "Nearly half of children starting school are unable to eat independently, use the toilet or communicate clearly -- but almost nine in ten parents believe their children are ready to start school, according to a new report." Teachers around the country are growing increasingly concerned about school readiness. Early years charity Kindred2 notes this means additional pressure on teachers and already stretched resources, with reception teachers unable to take lunch breaks because many of their pupils cannot feed themselves. A teacher told TES Magazine: "Staff in our school are being pushed to their limit at the moment. Lots of children not toilet trained means two members of staff are having to be released from classes to change a child each time they have an accident."

Last June, Kate dipped a toe into previously unchartered waters when she convened leading figures, such as Secretary of State for Health Sajid Javid, Minister for Families Will Quince, officials from the Department of Health and Social Care, and the Department for Education, to discuss with them the "huge appetite" for improvement among the public. It is a time of flux and uncertainty in Downing Street, with our third Prime Minister in office in a year. The layers to addressing meaningful change are complex and multi-faceted; it will  require real commitment, long-term funding and actionable plans from those at the highest levels of government. We've seen campaigning and advocacy efforts move the dial in other areas previously. I sincerely hope Kate's early years work can achieve the same. With early years I believe there's a general awareness of its importance, it's now a question of directing that toward tangible positive change. 

"The early years are not simply about how we raise our children. They are about the society we will become." -- HRH The Princess of Wales

We'll see the campaign unveiled across several engagements (and I suspect a podcast/interview) in the coming days.

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