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The impact of Sure Start Local Programmes on seven year olds and their families

Report of the Longitudinal Study of 7-year-old Children and Their Families

The ultimate goal of Sure Start Local Programmes (SSLPs) was to enhance the life chances for young children growing up in disadvantaged neighbourhoods. Children in this type of neighbourhood are at risk of doing poorly at school, having trouble with peers and agents of authority (i.e., parents, teachers), and ultimately experiencing compromised life chances (e.g., early school leaving, unemployment, limited longevity). The children in SSLP areas have low cognitive and language development being on average roughly one standard deviation below the population mean (NESS 2005). This indicates that the average child in an SSLP area is functioning at about the level of the 15th percentile. This represents a very substantial developmental handicap. These factors have profound consequences not just for the children but for their families, communities, and for society at large. Thus, SSLPs not only aimed to enhance health and well-being during the early years, but also to increase the chances that children would enter school ready to learn, be academically successful in school, socially successful in their communities and occupationally successful when adult. Indeed, by improving the developmental trajectories of young children at risk of compromised development, SSLPs aimed to break the intergenerational transmission of poverty, school failure and social exclusion. Such a strategy was a profound innovation for policy in the UK.