Parents & Carers

How the Needs of Bradford’s Children Birthed the National 50 Things Initiative


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Director Christian Bunting shares the 50 Things story, from Bradford beginnings to national reach.

As we approach the third anniversary of the launch of 50 Things, I wanted to take the opportunity to look back over where we have come, and share with you some of the plans we have for our future, as we reach out to the whole of the UK.

50 Things started out as an offer to Bradford, firmly based in the practice of St Edmund’s Nursery School, Bradford – a school judged outstanding by Ofsted for more than a decade. St Edmund’s is a unique school, deeply committed to parent partnership and with a pedagogical approach which is at the same time both highly innovative and also profoundly evidence-informed. At its simplest, I guess the underpinning rationale for 50 Things is that engaging in daily, life-changing activities with your family has significant, positive early learning and health impacts on young children, and that these benefits will continue to be seen through all their lives.

The underpinning research for 50 Things was drawn from CREC’s High Achieving White Working Class Boys’ project, the EPPE and EPSE reports and from wide-ranging research within the Education Endowment Foundation’s Teaching and Learning Toolkits. But it was the reality of what we saw at our school, and in the large number of schools we supported as a Teaching School and National Support School, that made us convinced that 50 Things had the opportunity to have a sustained impact on a national scale.

Initially, the 50 Things project focused on doing something about the significant challenges young people, especially those growing up in socially and economically disadvantaged backgrounds had in the area of spoken language. But very quickly 50 Things moulded into initiative that had multiple impacts. Active pre-school lifestyles, promoted by 50 Things, would deliver improved health outcomes, especially in the areas of coronary and respiratory health, and reduced obesity. 50 Things had a role to play in establishing healthy habits that would last a lifetime. Working with friends and colleagues at Bradford’s Centre for Applied Education Research, we became increasingly convinced of the overwhelming evidence that there was for the 50 Things approach. Harnessing evidence from the remarkable Born in Bradford cohort study, we knew that the evidence for 50 Things was in fact undeniable.

I have worked in Bradford for over twenty years, and I have been lucky to have had the opportunity to teach Bradford’s young people and to help lead some of its schools. This experience also revealed how unjust the system had become, far too rarely enabling children to reach their potential. As I saw it, young people growing up in relative poverty often were beset by economic, housing, health and educational challenges which were severe – so severe in many cases that they had been failed. When I was asked to sit on the Bradford Opportunity Area Partnership Board, I had the opportunity to work with some inspiring colleagues and time and time again I saw the reality of the impact the lack of social mobility was having on Bradford. We have been backed by the Bradford Opportunity Area, and has become a key tool in the City of Bradford Metropolitan District Council approach to the Early Years. We now work in partnership with the full range of stakeholders who have a role to play in improving outcomes and life chances for Bradford’s children and young people. As we move from Covid response to post-Covid recovery, we will need to build on this partnership if we are to give young people the opportunities they deserve, the opportunities to achieve their potential.

We have come a long way since our wonderful friends at Big Change saw the potential of 50 Things. Shine continue to back our work with Bradford’s two year olds. From our humble beginnings in a wonderful school in inner-city Bradford, 50 Things is a key part of the Early Years offer of a large and growing family of Local Authorities, which now reach out to 10% of England’s under-fives, well over 300,000 children. Right now, we have set our sights on 50 Things being part of the offer of every UK Local Authority. We know 50 Things works, and of course in the post-Covid world we need to grab every opportunity there is to do whatever we can do to help children have fun, whilst learning and being healthy at the same time. The team at 50 Things are waiting to hear from you.


To find out how to bring 50 Things To Do Before You're Five to your Local Authority, or to learn more about the project, sign up to our next webinar today.


Christian Bunting

Christian is the Director for the 50 Things To Do Before You're Five initiative. His passion for education spans a number of years in senior roles, formerly in schools and presently as a Partnership Board member for the Bradford Opportunity Area. He has led the development of Bradford Birth to 19 Teaching School from inception, building a collaborative alliance of 150 schools.

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