Early Intervention In The Early Years

Baby (small).jpg Critics of Sure Start, the U.K. government’s early years programme, have been vocal of late. Yes, there is evidence that benefit has not always as yet reached those small children and families who need it most. But this is work in progress, and it must be continued.
Children & parent 06.7.2-5 023.jpg Sure Start, the huge government-led programme for 0 – 4 year olds, has been subject to quite a lot of criticism of late. It’s understandable that senior polticians, the Prime Minister himself amongst them, should want to see progress before the next general election. The problem however is that small children don’t become achieving teenagers in the same time-span.
This was never going to be easy. Sure Start is at present specifically focused on the least advantaged families, where take-up, especially for those parents who find themselves most challenged, is variable. But it’s essential that those with the governmental cheque book hold their nerve.
Evidence that it works
One thing which stands out in the Sure Start programme is its emphasis on activities such as reading aloud for parents (and that includes fathers) and children to share. There is a dedicated theme in all this about bedtime stories, and indeed about just simple conversation between little ones and their carers. This is a difficult activity to measure with any degree of accuracy, but we know from longitudinal studies that, over years rather than just months, it works.
Sure Start is not the first programme of this sort. There’s plenty of evidence from previous programmes here and in the U.S.A. that early intervention is really beneficial for those who become involved. But we’re still learning how to reach the least advantaged and those who feel most marginalised.
Adapt, perhaps; abandon? No
Dad & two lboys  06.5.28 001.jpg Workers in Sure Start have had to find the way forward for themselves. Inevitably in such a situation some have had more success than others – not least because some local contexts provide greater challenges or fewer already established resources than do areas elsewhere.
The move towards Children’s Centres, whilst unsettling for many of the professionals concerned, is if handled sensitively probably the right way to go. It would be a tragedy if critics determinedly take a short-term view which makes it difficult for the Government to continue with this work.
Dismissing the idea behind the initiative would result in damage to the futures of many thousands of children who deserve the better start in life.

Posted on June 1, 2006, in Education, Health And Welfare, Equality, Diversity And Inclusion, Politics, Policies And Process, Regeneration, Renewal And Resilience, The Journal. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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