21 November 2008
By Paul Dicken
The government should move away from pilot schemes and short-term funding packages in its attempts to improve outcomes for vulnerable children, a research centre has said.
The first-year findings of the Narrowing the Gap project, which looks at ways of improving opportunities for vulnerable and disadvantaged children, have been published. The project is run by the Centre for Excellence and Outcomes in Children and Young People's Services (C4EO), which is funded by the Department for Children, Schools and Families.
The report calls for 'very few national programmes to drive progress in children's services' but for those programmes to be 'big and long-term'.
Furthermore, councils and partner organisations should be allowed flexibility but also held to account for reducing inequality.
Speaking at a Local Government Information Unit conference looking at the Every Child Matters policy, five years after the programme's creation, Christine Davies, director at C4EO, said there was much to celebrate. She cited the 'really significant take-up of early years education' and the fact that overall outcomes for children had improved year on year.
But she added: 'The gap between all children and those who are vulnerable and disadvantaged remains steeper and wider… than in any other developed country in the world.'
The findings of the two-year project have been disseminated to practitioners and local authorities this week and include 114 examples of local good practice. They also make numerous recommendations to government and councils on how to improve policy in this area.
Davies told delegates that evidence had shown that effective ways of improving children's educational and health outcomes included mentors and health visitors for young children, building 'emotional resilience' and introducing extended schools.