Put children at the centre

The network of children’s centres promised for
disadvantaged neighbourhoods is the outcome of the
government’s policy of integrating care and education
services for young children and their families.  Children’s
centres will offer the full range of early years, education, family
support and health services, building on the model of early
excellence centres whose role has been to develop good practice in
seamless service provision.

East Leeds Family Learning Centre, profiled in the July issue of
0-19, was part of the first wave of early excellence centres.  It
forms part of a network of facilities around the Seacroft Estate
providing everything from nursery care to full-time vocational
training for the parents.  Early excellence centres have succeeded
in reducing family breakdown, helped more special needs pupils stay
in mainstream education, and produced substantial savings for other
services that have to deal with the effects of social

The £1.5bn budget announced by the chancellor in his
comprehensive spending review will help to take this work forward,
especially now that early years learning, Sure Start and child care
are being integrated at government level in one inter-departmental
unit with its own minister, Baroness Ashton.  But the need to
create training, education and career opportunities for child care
staff must not be overlooked.  This is a chance to establish an
integrated early years service in which workers can gain
qualifications to climb the career ladder and move freely between
the health, education and social care settings in which their
skills are required.   

It is a shame that Gordon Brown did not take the opportunity, as
we had hoped, to reform the social fund.  But if the new resources
are used intelligently , the spending review will be an important
step towards bringing an end to child poverty.

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