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Sure Start Programme: Standards

Volume 465: debated on Wednesday 24 October 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families what targets and indicators for Sure Start are contained in the Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR) (a) 2004 and (b) 2007; what steps he plans to take in respect of these targets following recent performance against them; what progress he expects to be achieved by the end of the CSR 2004 reporting period; and if he will make a statement. (160497)

The Comprehensive Spending Review 2004 included four targets for Sure Start. They are:


To improve children’s communication, social and emotional development so that by 2008 53 per cent. of children reach a good level of development at the end of the Foundation Stage and reduce inequalities between the level of development achieved by children in the 30 per cent. most disadvantaged areas and the rest of England from 16 per cent. to 12 per cent. A good level of development was defined for this measure as achieving six points in each of the Personal, Social and Emotional Development and Communication Language and Literacy Scales.

During 2005 and 2006, the major focus was on improving the accuracy and consistency of the assessments against the FSP being undertaken in every local authority, through a programme of rigorous moderation assessments against the Foundation Stage Profile. It is encouraging that we are starting to see results move in the right direction after these improvements with a small increase in 2007 from 44 per cent. to 45 per cent. of children achieving a good level of development.

The gap between the most disadvantaged areas and the rest remained around 17 per cent. However this shows that the performance of the most disadvantaged groups has kept pace with improvements for the rest. We know that it will take time for our policies and programmes to have full impact but believe that investing for the long term is essential if we are to improve the life chances of the most disadvantaged children.

The Government are committed to investing in early education—we have invested over £21 billion in the early years, and will spend an additional £4 billion in the next spending period to give all children the best start in life and to narrow the gap between the most disadvantaged and the rest. That is why we have established over 1,500 Sure Start Children’s Centres in the most disadvantaged areas in the country, and are committed to having one in every community by 2010. We have also provided guidance to children’s centres on how they can reach out to their most vulnerable and disadvantaged children.


As a contribution to reducing the proportion of children living in households where no one is working, the target is by 2008 to increase the stock of Ofsted-registered child care by 10 per cent.

This target has already been met. A stock of 1.21 million registered child care places was necessary to meet the target of 10 per cent growth above the March 2004 baseline. In June 2007, there was a stock of 1.28 million registered child care places, which represented an increase of 17 per cent. from March 2004.

The target has been met but work is required to ensure that a sufficient level of stock is maintained. The main focus now is on sustainability of child care, and improving quality, accessibility and affordability, rather than the creation of additional places. The new duty on local authorities to complete assessments of the sufficiency of child care by March 2008 will help them identify unmet need, in advance of their duty to secure sufficient child care for working parents which comes into force the following month.


The target is to increase the take-up of formal child care by children in lower income working families by 120,000 by March 2008.

We are currently unable to assess performance as the necessary data will not be available until next year. However, we are working closely with delivery partners on key levers to achieve the target which include:

Increasing take up of the working tax credit (WTC) where take up among potentially eligible groups is low;

Jobcentre Plus promoting child care as part of packages to get people back into work;

The role of children’s centres and extended schools in providing child care in disadvantaged areas and promoting its take up through outreach;

Improving take up of the three and four-year-old free entitlement, where overall take up is high, but significantly lower among lower income families;

Maximising the impact of specific initiatives such as the free entitlement pilot for two-year-olds and the London Childcare Affordability Programme.


The PSA2C target to introduce a light touch approval scheme, with 3,500 new approved carers by March 2008 was met in December 2006.

The Comprehensive Spending Review 2007 includes two targets directly related to outcomes for children aged 5:


To increase the proportion of young children achieving a good level of development at the end of the Early Years Foundation Stage by an additional 4 percentage points from 2008 results, by 2011. A good level of development is defined for this measure by a total points score of at least 78 across all 13 Early Years Foundation Stage Profile scales—with at least six in each of the communication, language and literacy and personal, social and emotional development scales.


To reduce the percentage gap between the mean average performance of the lowest achieving 20 per cent. and the median score of all children by 3 percentage points from 2008 results, by 2011.