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Providing a Sure Start

Providing a Sure Start: How government discovered early childhood

Naomi Eisenstadt
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  • Book Info
    Providing a Sure Start
    Book Description:

    This book tells the story of Sure Start, one of the flagship programmes of the last government. It tells how Sure Start was set up, the numerous changes it went through, and how it has changed the landscape of services for all young children in England. Offering insight into the key debates on services for young children, as well as how decisions are made in a highly political context, it will be of keen interest to policy academics, senior managers of public services and all those with a keen interest in developing services for young children.

    eISBN: 978-1-84742-731-1
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Foreword
    (pp. v-viii)
    Jan Casson

    My involvement with Sure Start has taken me from managing a Trailblazer programme in the Ore Valley in East Sussex, to Sure Start Advisor for two London boroughs, and now to my current post as Children’s Centre Locality Manager, covering five centres across 750 square miles of rural North Northumberland.

    Before 1997, the providers of early years services were kept going on low levels of funding, short-term allocations and a system that concentrated on the school system, paying little regard to all that went before children were five years old. The practitioners argued that they needed more money for parenting...

  2. ONE How it all started
    (pp. 1-6)

    In the spring of 1998, Norman Glass, a senior civil servant from the Treasury, spent a day visiting two community projects in Birmingham. At the time, Glass was in charge of the Comprehensive Spending Review on Services for Young Children. As part of gathering evidence for the review, he was keen to see how such services actually operated at the front line. I was then Chief Executive of Family Service Units (FSU), a children’s charity working with disadvantaged families mainly in inner city areas. FSU had two units in Birmingham, one in Small Heath serving a largely Bangladeshi and Pakistani...

  3. TWO Setting the scene for change
    (pp. 7-18)

    Two key elements define the context for the establishment of Sure Start: the desire of the New Labour government to develop policy in new ways, including an ambition to reform the civil service, and the genuine commitment of the new government to improve and expand services for children, particularly early years and school provision. Underlying both of these, and critical to the New Labour project, was the unusual relationship between Gordon Brown and Tony Blair. This chapter will describe the wider policy context for Sure Start, and how politics as well as policy and personalities set the stage for radical...

  4. THREE A star is born
    (pp. 19-40)

    The Labour government that came to power in May 1997 was deeply committed to changing how government works. This chapter will describe some of the policymaking innovation under New Labour, and how it differed from the past. It is difficult to overemphasise the optimism of the times, both within government on what would be possible, and outside of government on what the new administration would deliver. Those of us on the outside working in the voluntary sector were desperate to influence a new raft of ministers, only a few of whom had served in previous Labour administrations. Most had only...

  5. FOUR What happened next?
    (pp. 41-52)

    The next phase of the Sure Start story comes in four interconnecting parts: getting programmes established on the ground; dealing with a change of ministers; the next Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR); and setting up the evaluation. All of these were to have profound effects on Sure Start. The first 60 trailblazer areas were announced in 1999; hence, the most important job from 1999 to 2002 was getting 250 Sure Start Local Programmes (SSLPs) established, spending money and delivering Sure Start in local areas. At the same time, the wider business of government continued. The first reshuffle of government ministers took...

  6. FIVE How will we know it works?
    (pp. 53-64)

    This chapter will describe the way in which the evaluation of Sure Start was set up, and some of the key controversies surrounding the evaluation. Given the size of the evaluation, and the likely attention such an evaluation would get in the research community, it is not surprising that deciding who would do it and, more importantly, how it would be designed proved enormously difficult. There was political conflict, personality conflicts and deeply held scientific arguments about the evaluation of Sure Start. Indeed, Sir Michael Rutter, one of Britain’s most esteemed scientists, believed that the way in which the programme...

  7. SIX Stroppy adolescence
    (pp. 65-86)

    The next part of the Sure Start story is set against a complex set of interconnecting changes at the heart of government. All of these changes affected Sure Start in some way, and all had a much wider impact on children’s and broader social policy. A series of significant events and publications were critical to the transformation of Sure Start over the subsequent five years, as well as to the delivery of children’s services across England:

    A Labour victory in the general election of 2001 was followed by a reorganisation of the DfEE and a change of Secretary of State....

  8. SEVEN Sure Start grows up
    (pp. 87-114)

    This part of the Sure Start story describes its change from a time-limited initiative to a permanent part of the welfare state, what in law every parent has a right to expect in their local neighbourhood for their young children. This chapter will tell three key stories in the development of Sure Start:

    the impact on Sure Start Local Programmes (SSLPs) of the merger at the Department for Education and Skills (DfES) of Sure Start, Early Years Education and Childcare, and particularly the impact of the 2002 Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR);

    the development ofChoice for Parents, the Best Start...

  9. EIGHT Did it work?
    (pp. 115-138)

    By 2005, there were significant changes to the original concept of Sure Start, so the question of whether it had worked or not was confounded by the question of what it now was. From an area-based initiative of 250 local programmes, we were now tasked with delivering the commitments inChoice for Parents, the Best Start for Children: a Ten Year Strategy for Childcare. No longer an area-based policy for poor children, there would now be a Sure Start Children’s Centre in every community, 3,500 in all. We were handing over control from Whitehall to local authorities, and we were...

  10. NINE What have we learned and what have we achieved?
    (pp. 139-162)

    Chapter Eight gave a detailed summary of the results from the National Evaluation of Sure Start and other major research studies that have provided a huge amount of knowledge and understanding about what does and does not work in improving long-term outcomes for children. This chapter will look more broadly at what we have learned from Sure Start about the way government works. It will explore what ministers themselves think should have been done differently, what aspects of the programme made it particularly challenging to implement and what remains as a legacy of Sure Start. This final chapter will:


  11. Appendix: Key events and dates
    (pp. 163-166)