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Best Practice for a Sure Start: The Way Forward for Children’s Centres

Report from the All Party Parliamentary Sure Start Group

In recent years, a considerable body of evidence has highlighted the enormous influence that the earliest experiences in a baby’s life can have on later life chances. In this context, Sure Start Children’s Centres have an absolutely vital role to play in supporting babies, children and families.

While these are challenging times for all those involved with Sure Start Children’s Centres, local authorities are working hard to try and protect services, and we believe that real opportunities exist for the future. However, as we move forward it will be vital for Children’s Centres, and those Departments and agencies
that support them, to share best practice and understand which interventions are most effective. This report aims to contribute to those objectives.

This is particularly relevant given the new Ofsted inspection framework, under which ‘satisfactory’ ratings will be reclassified as ‘requires improvement’. While we have found examples of exemplary work, Ofsted currently say that around one in three Centres is only ‘satisfactory’. This needs to be addressed, and the downward trend in Centres achieving ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ ratings reversed. In doing so, it will be essential to build a strong evidence base around the positive impact that Centres have, and to establish a coherent partnership between Centres and other key local delivery agencies, particularly health and Jobcentre Plus.