Publication Details

Belsky, J., Melhuish, E. & Barnes, J. (2008). Research and policy in developing an early years' initiative: The case of Sure Start. International Journal of Child Care and Education Policy, 2 (2), 1-13.


The British government's wish to eliminate the cycle of disadvantage for children from poor families led to Sure Start. The initiative set up 260 Sure Start Local Programmes (SSLPs) by 2001, which were expanded to 524 programmes within 2 years. SSLPs aimed to enhance the health and development of children under four and their families in deprived communities. SSLPs were area-based, with all children under four and their families in an area being eligible. This allowed efficient delivery of services without stigmatisation. SSLPs did not have a prescribed "protocol" of services. Instead, each SSLP had autonomy to improve and create services, with general goals and some specific targets but without specification of how services were to be delivered. The National Evaluation of Sure Start (NESS) undertook a multifaceted evaluation of SSLPs, and by 2005 research evidence led to a fundamental shift with SSLPs becoming Children's Centres. The story of how this happened is discussed herein, with latest findings summarised.