Sure Start Children’s Centres

I was just looking at the website for my son’s scool (check out this entry on ICT and special needs submitted by the IT manager from the school) to see what new links had gone up.  In there is an entry for our local Sure Start centre at Potter’s Gate ( a primary school in Farnham) as, on the last Wednesday of every month, they run a special needs support group.

Sure Start centre’s were born out of a Government programme to deliver the best start in life for every child by bringing together early education, childcare, health and family support. The aim of Sure Start Children’s Centres is to improve outcomes for all children. They are a vital part of the previous  (Labour) Government’s ten-year childcare strategy to enable all families with children to have access to an affordable, flexible, high-quality childcare place for their child.

The Early Years, Extended Schools and Special Needs Group, within the DCSF (that’s the Department for Children, Schools and Families), is responsible for delivering Sure Start.

Sure Start covers a wide range of programmes, both universal and those targeted on particular local areas or disadvantaged groups within England. Of course, within Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, responsibility for early education and childcare issues lies with the devolved administrations.

The services vary according to centre but may include:

  • integrated early education and childcare – all centres offering Early Years provision have a minimum half-time qualified teacher (increasing to full-time within 18 months of the centre opening)
  • support for parents – including advice on parenting, local childcare options and access to specialist services for families
  • child and family health services – ranging from health screening, health visitor services to breast-feeding support
  • helping parents into work – with links to the local Jobcentre Plus and training.

Acording to the DCSF website, “Sure Start Children’s Centres are building on existing successful initiatives like Sure Start local programmes, neighbourhood nurseries and early-excellence centres, and bringing high-quality integrated Early Years services to the heart of communities.” The webste goes on to say, “By 2010, there will be 3500 children’s centres, so that every family has easy access to high-quality integrated services in their community and the benefits of Sure Start can be felt nationwide.”

With the new coalition goverenments drive to bring under control the massive deficit we, as a country, face who can say at this time what impact this may have on the Sure Start initiatives.  But “make hay while the sum shines” would be my advice. Find your nearest Sure Start centre.

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