Preparing for school in a pandemic

Embers the Dragon

A business supported by Innovate UK is helping four-year-olds overcome the impacts of COVID-19 and ensure they are ready to start school.

In normal years, nurseries across the country help hundreds of thousands of four-year-olds prepare for the transition to school.

Lockdown meant nurseries were closed, and young children missed out on training in the practical aspects of starting school, like washing their hands, being able to use a toilet and get dressed by themselves, and skills like sharing, asking for help, and being kind.

Emma Selby of Digital Mentality is a specialist mental health nurse consultant who set up a platform to support children’s wellbeing with creative agency Brickwall and the Red Balloon Family Foundation.

Embers the Dragon

Embers the Dragon is being used to develop a series of fun animations and resources for parents and teachers to support children’s development, emotional wellbeing and school readiness.

The business won funding from Innovate UK’s COVID-19 support programme to help develop an episode on school readiness (YouTube). The animation features fun characters and voiceovers from the likes of comedian Jo Brand.

Selby said:

We can predict based on how ready a child is for school at four or five what their results are likely to be at 16 and how likely they are to be involved in gangs and criminality.

It has always been a divide between haves and have-nots, but this year was unique because no one was ready.

Support from Innovate UK

A total of 480,000 people either watched the animation or downloaded the parent resources within the first three weeks of its launch.

Selby said:

That blew me away. We weren’t expecting to get that many. We got lots of really nice comments back from parents, and it spread as far as India, Canada and Australia.

Two more episodes on anger and self-esteem are in clinical trials, and Embers the Dragon is seeking support for episodes on bereavement and anxiety.

Embers the Dragon is based on clinical best practice, and the company hopes it will become both an effective alternative to current NHS therapies like parenting groups, which are expensive to run and suffer high drop-out rates.

Last updated: 16 December 2020

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