Experts pan the Coalition’s Plans to cut Sure Start

As rapporteur in the European Parliament Culture and Education Committee on early years learning across Europe, I am totally against the Coalition’s plan to cut the Sure Start programme.

My worst fears were confirmed last week when I was privileged to chair the morning session of an important conference in Brussels on early years education and care (ECEC). Organised by Working for Inclusion, the conference was supported by Children in Scotland and the Scottish Government and attended by a number of prominent children’s organisations including Eurochild and the Comenius Foundation for Child Development.

Among the impressive list of contributors were Bronwen Cohen , Head of Children in Scotland, John Bennett and Peter Moss. John Bennett works for the OECD as a senior consultant to the Early Childhood Policy Review and Peter Moss is Professor of Early Childhood Provision at the Institute of Education, University of London. He was the Coordinator of the European Commission Childcare Network from 1986-96, and also edited Children in Europe from 2002-09. We were also pleased to have two representatives present from the European Commission, Margarida Gameiro from DG Education and Culture, and Marie-Anne Paraskevas from DG Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities. Stig Lund, from the European Trade Union Committee for Education, also said a few words.

All the speakers highlighted the vital contribution that high quality ECEC services can make to the public good. Families with children under five are at a higher risk of poverty than any other group. While ECEC services are not a ‘cure all’ solution to the problem of unequal and unjust societies, the contribution they can make to helping kids get the best start in life can’t be overlooked.

They stressed, however, that services should be universal, rather than targeted. This is why the Coalition’s planned cuts to Sure Start are so worrying. If, under their new scheme, Sure Start centres only target the poorest families, then it will lead to stigmatisation, which in turn will reduce take up. The Coalition must start listening to experts, rather than simply cutting education funding with impunity.

1 Comment

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One response to “Experts pan the Coalition’s Plans to cut Sure Start

  1. Daniel Oxley

    It is more than a little difficult to take seriously comment from the EU on matters of funding and finance for the Sure Start programme or for anything else. A report by the EU itself, informs us that a whole 92% of the EU budget for 2009 is open to irregularities and fraud.

    I have just done a few calculations about this and from the figures it looks as though every man, woman and child in the UK has paid £102.73 worth of irregularities and fraud.

    My calculation might not be 100% accurate; my only resources are a few bits of information, a lap top and a calculator but my figure is probably as good as any the perennially incompetent EU can provide. For all their economists, accountants, budget committees, advisors, etc. they still haven’t managed to have their accounts signed off for the last sixteen years in a row.

    I want my hundred quid back!