England’s Sure Start Pre-School Child Care Centres: Public Policy, Progress and Political Change

Alice Sawyerr, Christopher Bagley

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Specialist child care centres focusing on urban areas in which significant numbers lived in poverty were part of policies to reduce chronic poverty and disadvantage, and associated negative behaviours and achievements in children and young people. They were initiated by the New Labour government in the late 1990s, and evolved in various ways as Sure Start centres, and Early Childhood Care Centres. Methodologically sophisticated evaluation has shown that these interventions have been partially successful in various ways, particularly with regard to preschool children’s behaviour and adjustment, and parent-child interactions. When early interventions were linked to health programmes, and to teacher-led initiatives, the programmes were most successful. Nevertheless, the programmes failed to reach some 5 percent of those identified as most in need, for whom profound and chronic poverty was the cause of parental problems, and dysfunctional parent-child interactions. When programmes for such families were reduced because of changes in the manner and amount of funding, outcomes for the very poor families and their children were significantly
worse. The Sure Start programmes were, in the final analysis, underfunded and subject to political change and interference, and hardly dented the chronic disadvantages imposed by England’s system of class division.
Original languageEnglish
Article number73251
Pages (from-to)116-132
Number of pages17
JournalOpen Journal of Political Science
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 3 Jan 2017

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