In defence of Sure Start

The TaxPayers' Alliance have responded to Left Foot Forward's post on Friday about the TPA and Institute of Directors' proposals to make £50 billion in public spending savings. In defence of their proposals to save £1.46 billion by cutting Sure Start, TPA make three arguments. Left Foot Forward responds to each in turn.

The TaxPayers’ Alliance have responded to Left Foot Forward’s post on Friday about the TPA and Institute of Directors’ proposals to make £50 billion in public spending savings. We will be following up throughout the day starting with Sure Start.

In defence of their proposals to save £1.46 billion by cutting Sure Start, TPA make three arguments. Left Foot Forward responds to each in turn.

1) TPA defend their statement that, “two out of five of this year’s 11 year olds (a cohort who would have had at least some access to Sure Start schemes from age two) will go to secondary school this September without having reached a sufficient level of competency in all three core subjects” and that “in 2003 the percentage of pupils on free school meals achieving the expected Level 2 (or above) at Key Stage 1 was 69 per cent; in 2008, that figure had not changed, remaining at 69 per cent.”

Birkbeck Professor Edward Melhuish in an email to Left Foot Forward replies that:

“The problem is that Early Sure Start programmes were targeted on 0-4 year olds. This year 11 year olds were born in 1998, they would have been 4 by 2002. The very earliest Sure Start (60) serving around 3000 children had their funding agreed at the end of 1999 but they were not operational til 2002.

Thus this year 11 year olds are far too old to have been affected by the earliest sure start programmes. Even then the earliest 60 programmes would have only affected 3000 out of 650,000 children taking Sats in any one year.”

2) TPA quote the second National Evaluation report on Sure Start: “Nevertheless, however consistent the benefits detected in the current phase of impact evaluation, they should not be exaggerated, as all positive effects of SSLPs detected were modest in magnitude [emphasis added by TPA].” TPA go on to say, “So the second NESS report acknowledges that the programme is not making a big difference.”

But the 2008 evaluation also says:

“These positive results are modest but are evidence that the impact of Sure Start
programmes is improving
…” (p.vi)

“Indeed, one cannot help but be reminded of the history of early intervention evaluation given the changing conclusions that were drawn in the report of early SSLP findings and in this report. For instance, whereas some contended that Head Start in the USA had failed to benefit children (e.g., McKey, Condelli, Barrett, McConkey & Plantz 1985), longer term follow up studies revealed beneficial effects that were not detected initially (e.g., Lee, Brooks-Gunn & Schnur 1988; Currie and Thomas, 1993).” (p.31)

3) TPA say, “it would be better to free up schools to deliver what communities need, rather than impose at the local level a top-down programme from Whitehall.  There is no reason why good schools cannot also provide good early years education.”

Left Foot Forward would not want to suggest that schools should not be involved in early years education, far from it. But there would be costs associated with moving some Sure Start services such as local health services and links to Job Centre Plus into schools.

5 Responses to “In defence of Sure Start”

  1. Will Straw

    In defence of Sure Start centres. Responding again to the TPA http://bit.ly/aV6BV

  2. Clifford Singer

    RT @wdjstraw: In defence of Sure Start centres. Responding again to the TaxPayers’ Alliance http://bit.ly/aV6BV

  3. Vicky Lowe

    In defence of Sure Start | Left Foot Forward http://tinyurl.com/yexomj4

  4. Defending Sure Start against vicious right-wing attacks | Left Foot Forward

    […] Professor Edward Melhuish, who led the ISCFSI study, has previously told Left Foot Forward that: “The problem is that Early Sure Start programmes were targeted on 0-4 year olds. This year […]

  5. Jennifer O'Mahony

    RT @hangbitch: Girls: been looking at left foot foward http://bit.ly/bPwFxG & enjoying it, sort of & then I noticed – they don't link to female bloggers…

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