Sure Start ‘has failed to boost children’s literacy and numeracy’


Child development in early yearsResearchers claim early years programmes have done little to improve attainment of children from poorest homes

Children’s early language and numeracy has improved little despite initiatives, such as Sure Start, aimed at boosting pre-school educational achievement, according to research published today.

Experts studying the development of 117,000 children starting primary school in England over eight years said their findings showed that early years programmes needed to be reviewed to check whether they were reaching those most in need, particularly pupils from poor backgrounds.

Basic levels of development in early reading, vocabulary and maths remained largely unchanged between 2001 and 2008, the team from the Centre for Evaluation and Monitoring (Cem), at Durham University, said.

They looked at how children starting at the same 472 state primary schools each year scored in measures called Pips (performance indicators in primary schools), which include tasks such as counting to seven, discriminating between different sounds and solving simple problems.

Dr Christine Merrell, who led the research, published by the Oxford Review of Education, said: “Given the resources put into early years initiatives, we expected to see a rise in literacy and numeracy scores in schools, so it’s disappointing that there has been no improvement.”

“Our findings reinforce the concern that the poorest families in our society are not accessing the full range of educational opportunities and resources designed to help them. If we really want to improve life for the more vulnerable and poorer sections of society, we need to target assistance much more effectively.

“Access is still a major issue. If disadvantaged families can access and use the full range of resources, advice and expertise available, then Sure Start could offer significant help to children from poorer backgrounds.”

The first Sure Start schemes were introduced in 1999 in the most deprived neighbourhoods, and the programme was later expanded to run from children’s centres in areas with a wider mix of families. The coalition has called for them to refocus their efforts on the poorest children, with middle-class parents likely to be charged for an increasing number of services.

The charity 4Children, which runs a number of children’s centres, said it knew from experience that Sure Start was important in helping families overcome the damaging effects of poverty and disadvantage.

Its chief executive, Anne Longfield, said: “These findings go against the grain of a mountain of new research which shows the enormous benefit of Sure Start for children and their parents.

“Criticisms highlighted in this study are already being addressed and should not cast doubt over the excellent work happening across the country to ensure that Sure Start makes the biggest difference to those who need it most.”

Due you agree that there has been a lack of improvement within children’s literacy and numeracy? What actions need to be implemented to ensure child development is assured? Drop your thoughts below!

Source: The Guardian


One thought on “Sure Start ‘has failed to boost children’s literacy and numeracy’

  • December 15, 2010 at 2:43 pm

    I think what has been hugely underestimated in these sweeping statements- judging the success or failure of sureststart centres- based on a literacy and numeracy scores at Yr2 or end of Reception Yr- is the real progress made for the holistic development and learning of a child.
    As a children’s centre teacher I am aware of the range and breadth of factors affecting the life of some children under the age of five. The domestic chaos, lack of stimulation, fear, neglect, violence induced by substance abuse, poor housing, poor educational attainment of parents are just some of the baggage a child arrives with. These factors affect the disposition of the child.
    I have worked with children who at two years of age have not yet made secure attachments/ relationships within their own family; do not have emotional security; operate within their reptilian brain (survival mode) through fear and need to firstly begin to know that they are special; to begin to develop a sense of own identity; develop some self-esteem and feel secure enough to begin to display positive wellbeing. Only at this point can the child begin to develop involvement in their environment and the potential learning opportunities within. This is what we recognise as a disposition to learn, and develops ovre time through being nurtured by the combination of all adults in the child’s life. Some off these adults are practitioners ( cosistent people in child’slife during a typical week) as well as parents/ other carers.

    Within a school- test results are viewed each year, yet do not take into account the fact that they apply to a completely different cohort of children each year. Improvement in scores from one year to the next is not a measure the individual progress within the group/ cohort.

    One of my roles is to support imrovements in the quality of provision for under 5’s ( preschools/ settings)
    I am working extremely hard with all of these settings to help staff develop their awareness/ skills in supporting the wellbeing of the child/ communication opportunities/ language development/ thinking skills/ problem solving etc… All of this begins to become evident once the child feels positively secure and nurtured.
    EYFS is a framework which can help practitioners consider where the observed actions/ behaviours/ attainment of the child best fit, comparing this to their age- band related expectations; then plan to meet developmental needs whilst following individual interests.

    The children recently on the 2gether pilot were monitored specifically for Personal, Social, Emotional Development and Communication, language & Literacy. Progress has been monitored during each term in the setting; much nurturing support has been required for children who may have been 24 months but functioning moe in line with 0-11 months or 6-16 months in CLL.

    EYFS can be used to help improve the standards in EY’s- if practitioners start with the child and use EYFS as a positive framework to identify developmental levels. Practitioners can strive towards targeted progress in their work with the child. The richest resource is the quality of practitioner, the skill level of the adult supporting the child as a learner. The framework just needs to be useful as a tool; manageable to be used in a flexible way by the practitioner/ setting.

    Look at EPPE closely/ ECERS/ ITERS & Iram Siraj-Blachford.
    Many Thanks


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