Study Indicates Improved GCSE Performance Among Children Residing Near Sure Start Centres


How Sure Start Centres Benefitted Children’s GCSE Performance

Sure Start centres have shown to improve GCSE results, especially for kids from low-income families. The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) found that children living near these centres performed better by up to three grades compared to those farther away. Sure Start, launched in 1998, aimed to support new parents, particularly in disadvantaged areas. However, many centres have since closed.

The IFS study, backed by the Nuffield Foundation, analyzed data from children aged five to determine their proximity to Sure Start centres. It then compared their GCSE results at age 16 and found significant improvements for those living close to a centre, particularly for children from low-income backgrounds.

For example, a child on free school meals who initially scored DDD in their GCSEs could potentially achieve three Cs or even three 4s if they lived near a Sure Start centre during their early years.

Sure Start centres offered a range of services, including health, education, childcare, and employment support for parents. They particularly benefited children with special educational needs and reduced the need for costly support later on.

Initially introduced as “one-stop shops” under Tony Blair’s Labour government, Sure Start reached its peak in 2010 with over 3,000 centres nationwide. However, funding cuts led to closures, with only 75 family hubs currently running in England, offering support until children turn 19 or 25 for those with special needs.

While the Department for Education (DfE) emphasizes increased spending on early years overall, critics argue that the current family hubs receive far less funding compared to Sure Start at its peak. This shortfall may limit the potential benefits of integrated early years services.

Labour figures, including Gordon Brown and David Blunkett, advocate for reinstating Sure Start centres. However, shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves stopped short of committing to funding new centres, emphasizing the importance of costed and funded policies.

Despite differing views on future funding, the impact of Sure Start remains clear. It has positively transformed the lives of many families, offering crucial support during children’s formative years.


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